Champs All Blacks tear apart Ireland to book a semi-final date with England

Saturday, October 19th, 2019 22:36 |

  Tokyo, Saturday

The end, in so many ways.

Not just the end of Ireland’s World Cup, and the end of what the players believed was a realistic shot at being the first team in green to make the semi-finals.

But this is the end of the road for Joe Schmidt, for his captain Rory Best and, given the age profile of Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls, perhaps the end for a host of long serving stalwarts.

It will be hard to come back from this seven-try hammering. Andy Farrell will have a big job on his hands to pick up the pieces.

Clearly it’s not the way Schmidt wanted to bow out, in tame surrender to the country of his birth.

New Zealand were pretty irresistable as they maintained their run of not losing a World Cup game in 12 years, their dominance reflected in a heavy defeat to rivals who had got the better of them in two of their last three meetings.

But on a night that crackled with promise as the Haka was sung down by the large Ireland support among the 46,686 attendance at the Tokyo Stadium, Ireland made so many mistakes. It killed them.

Less than a year ago, Schmidt’s men were lauded as the best team of 2018 and, in contrast to the 2015 quarter-final, Ireland were locked and loaded with a full compliment of experienced players available, bar the suspended Bundee Aki. 

But the concerns over poor form that were evident throughout this year all resurfaced here when the stakes were at their highest. 

For this was desperately one-sided. The All Blacks were fearsome in attack and defence, a different animal entirely in this knock-out scenario, and Ireland couldn’t live with them. 

There was footage shown of Schmidt reading the riot act in the dressing-room at the break.

Not for the first time in their Rugby World Cup history England gave their fans some palpitations en route, but Eddie Jones and his players have lived to fight another day. 

The semi-finals now await after a seesawing contest in Oita against a battling Australia side who, for 65 minutes, made their opponents work extremely hard for their place in the tournament’s last four.

The final margin did not entirely reflect an eventful game in which the Wallabies counterattacking excellence made life distinctly uncomfortable for England at times. 

              - AFP

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