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New Zealand 46 Ireland 14
When you play New Zealand, especially in a World Cup knockout match, your execution has to be nigh-on perfect, you need to win key moments early on, you need a little luck and you need the All Blacks slightly off colour. None of these applied on one of the most chastening days Irish rugby has known.
Everything had been set fair for a big Irish performance, and the atmosphere beforehand when the 15-20,000 Irish supporters present drowned out the haka with The Fields of Athenry (okay, maybe not a good idea as the All Blacks don’t like their haka to be disrespected in any way) was spine-tingling.
But the first 10 minutes set the tone. The All Blacks’ line speed and tackle execution rattled Ireland’s running game, forcing spillages in contact by Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw. Meanwhile, Henshaw and Garry Ringrose clashed heads in tackling Ardie Savea, the latter going off to have 18 stitches in being replaced by Jordan Larmour, whose pace actually saved a try after Earls’ fumble in contact.
Not only did the All Blacks make 18 line breaks to two, but Ireland even struggled to get over the gain line.
The first-half might have assumed a different tone had Jacob Stockdale held on to his attempted intercept, which instead conceded the game’s opening three-pointer. Stockdale partially redeemed himself when reclaiming Johnny Sexton’s restart on what was the high point of a poor day for the winger.
The brilliant Kieran Read, whose tackling, carrying and handling in the central channels was almost the equivalent of a third playmaker, afterwards pretty much said Ireland’s game hadn’t evolved since beating them last year. The offload tally of 14-3 indicated as much.
By contrast, the All Blacks’ attack seemed like a video game compared to Ireland’s, such was
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