All Blacks overwhelm Ireland to reach World Cup semifinals
TOKYO (AP) — It’s one thing to beat the All Blacks in Chicago or Dublin. It’s an entirely different challenge at the Rugby World Cup, where they feel right at home.
Defending champion New Zealand scored seven tries in a 46-14 demolition of Ireland on Saturday to move into a semifinal against England, which beat Australia 40-16 earlier in Oita.
The result was virtually beyond doubt by halftime, when the All Blacks led 22-0, and the continuance of two opposing streaks seemed certain.
New Zealand extended its unbeaten run at the World Cup since an upset quarterfinal loss to France in 2007. Ireland is now 0-8 in World Cup knockout games.
The Irish may never have felt more confident, after their drought-breaking win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 and another victory in Dublin last November that capped a year that included a Six Nations Grand Slam.
They were ranked No. 1 ahead of the tournament, but were never in the contest at Tokyo Stadium.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith crossed for a pair of tries from close range and Beauden Barrett finished off a long-range try against the run of play in the first half, and the All Blacks added four more tries in the second half. The All Blacks, winners of the first World Cup in 1987 and the last two, are shaping up well for a third consecutive title.
“We’re really proud of that performance,” Barrett said. “We knew in previous games against Ireland they’ve probably got the better of us up front and we knew it had to start there.
“The work the big boys did to dominate most parts of this game certainly helped the backs to exploit the space. It was a huge effort.”
The Irish were looking at something different from the New Zealanders this time, with flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and fullback Barrett deployed as dual playmakers.
The defensive patterns that contained the All Blacks in recent head-to-heads couldn’t cope.
Barrett was voted player of the match, but Mo’unga must have gone close. The three Barrett brothers in the squad were playing as a tribute to their recently deceased grandfather, and the New Zealanders wore black armbands in his honor.
“We wanted to bring that intent tonight,” Beauden Barrett said of the blistering start. “It’s do-or-die footy — we knew the reality was we could have been going home if we didn’t bring it tonight.
“It’s been an emotional week for my family. We wanted to play well for him tonight. Thinking of you up there, love you, Grandad Ted.”
Ireland’s night was epitomized by Robbie Henshaw’s bombed try in the 67th minute, when he chased a perfectly placed grubber kick into the in-goal but knocked on.
He made amends quickly — after an attacking scrum Henshaw stepped inside the defense and dived over under the posts. The Ireland center raised his fist in celebration but it was merely a consolation.
New Zealand scored again before referee Nigel Owens awarded Ireland a penalty try in the 77th, for replacement forward Todd being in an offside position and blocking off the goalpost when Ireland was inches from scoring. Todd finished the match in the sin-bin, but New Zealand scored again despite being a man down.
Halves Smith and Mo’unga were instrumental in getting New Zealand off to a flyer.
Mo’unga opened the scoring with a penalty goal and Smith darted over in sniping runs in the 14th and 20th minutes. Smith’s second try followed an attacking raid involving a perfect pop pass from center Jack Goodhue to right winger Sevu Reece chiming into the backline and sending it wide to George Bridge, who was tackled within meters of the left corner post.
A piece of Mo’unga brilliance, when he leaped high to tap an attempted touch-finder from Ireland back into his in-goal to prevent a close-range lineout, kept New Zealand out of trouble before he contributed heavily to his team’s third try.
Ireland was in prime position but fumbled the ball after a mix-up between Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney in the 32nd. Mo’unga hacked it forward for Barrett to chase, and the fullback toed it forward again before regathering to score in the right corner.
Hooker Codie Taylor made it 29-0 in the 48th before a Mo’unga cross-field kick in the 61st was well caught by an unmarked Reece in open space. Reece was tackled near the line but Todd scored off the next phase. Bridge and Jordie Barrett crossed in late in an exchange of tries.
Ireland captain Rory Best’s international career finished soon after, after 14 years and 124 tests, when he was replaced and left the field in tears.
“The All Blacks were fantastic,” he said. “We felt we’d a game plan, we felt we’d enough in our armory to beat them but they just came out of the blocks hard at us, put us on the back foot and like good sides do, they never let us get off.”
Joe Schmidt’s tenure as Ireland coach finished with another bitter quarterfinal disappointment.
“We were great last year and we’ve just maybe come off the top of that and haven’t quite been where we wanted to be all year,” he said. “You carry scars a lot more than your success, and those scars are deep.”