All Blacks Torch Ireland to Reach World Cup Semis
Two-time defending champion New Zealand cruised into a Rugby World Cup semifinal matchup against England after dismantling Ireland 46-14 at Tokyo Stadium, Japan Times’ staff writer Andrew McKirdy reports.
Ireland had beaten the All Blacks in two of their previous three encounters heading into their quarterfinal, but New Zealand was simply too hot for the Irish to handle on the occasion when it mattered most, McKirdy writes.
Aaron Smith scored two first-half tries before Beauden Barrett added another to give the All Blacks a formidable halftime lead, and further scores from Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett kept up the momentum after the interval.
A late score from Robbie Henshaw and a penalty try belatedly got Ireland on the scoreboard, but it was nowhere near enough to stop the All Blacks from progressing to a mouth-watering semifinal against England in Yokohama on 26 October.
“I don’t know if you can call it a monkey on our backs, but we got reminded and reminded and reminded that we had lost to Ireland,” New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said. “The All Blacks don’t need to know that we lost to Ireland. We know that. We remember the losses more than we remember the wins.”
Ireland kept up its dismal World Cup record of never having advanced past the quarterfinals despite having appeared in every edition of the tournament, and departing head coach New Zealander Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best will now bow out with their ambitions unfulfilled.
“You can’t afford to give the All Blacks access points like we did,” said Schmidt, who is stepping down after six years in charge. “They’re good enough to win games without us inviting them in. I think we were a little bit flat. We had a few niggles during the week and we weren’t sure what our team would be until Thursday. I felt that we needed to get off to a good start to build momentum and confidence, and if that didn’t happen, I always felt we would be a little bit vulnerable.
“Obviously, we would have loved to get into the top four. There are a number of things this group of players has achieved, and that’s the one thing that remains elusive. We’re incredibly disappointed. Heartbroken wouldn’t be too far away from how I feel now and how the players feel now.”
Original article by Andrew McKirdy, The Japan Times, October 19, 2019.