Rugby Error after error hands All Blacks a free pass to semi

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Rugby Aaron Smith: ‘We were definitely trying to put a performance up that we could be proud of’. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Aaron Smith: ‘We were definitely trying to put a performance up that we could be proud of’. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ireland never fired a shot in Tokyo. Instead, they handed the All Blacks a free pass to the final four.

This team was meant to be different, but their collective failings combined to produce an abject performance that means they beat the record set at this stage four years ago.

The fundamentals of Joe Schmidt’s regime were burned to the ground by a rampant All Black team who turned every turnover into an opportunity in the blink of an eye.

The coach warned us on Thursday that you cannot hand cheap possession to the men in black. His players didn’t take heed.

Instead, they were inaccurate in almost everything they did as they handed chance after chance to the most dangerous team in the game.

The poor handling in the earlier rounds were explained away as the result of the humid conditions in Japan, but this was a benign night in the capital.



Rugby New Zealand's Sevu Reece is defended by Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Photo: Jae Hong/AP Photo


New Zealand’s Sevu Reece is defended by Ireland’s Johnny Sexton. Photo: Jae Hong/AP Photo

The physical capitulation against England in Twickenham was apparently down to ‘periodisation’ but when they needed to be at the peak of their powers the Irish players were blown away.

For two years they were the match of the world champions, but every individual battle went the way of New Zealand who scored three first-half tries – all of which were the result of Irish errors.

The first one was a harmless Robbie Henshaw knock-on, the second a James Ryan fumble and Tadhg Furlong drop and the third a mix up between Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney that resulted in the outhalf losing the ball in contact.

The punishment was ruthless, the execution devastating.



Rugby New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Ireland's Conor Murray (left) and James Ryan. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire


New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Ireland’s Conor Murray (left) and James Ryan. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Aaron Smith finished the first two, Beauden Barrett sensationally raced clear to score the third.

As Schmidt said, Ireland could have played to their optimum and still come up short.

Their eternal regret will be that they didn’t come close to the level they reached in 2018.

“The amount of handling errors was unacceptable from Ireland,” Dave Kilcoyne said.



Rugby Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against the All Blacks


Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against the All Blacks

“It’s not what we’re about and it’s not what the team has become accustomed to over the last few years.

“It was just that New Zealand put us under so much pressure, and you’ve got to look to that as well. I think they forced a lot of those handling errors, and full credit t

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