New Zealand issued a warning to their Rugby World Cup rivals as they reached the tournament’s semi-finals courtesy of a 46-14 win over Ireland in Tokyo on Saturday.
There was plenty of hype around this fixture as Ireland won two of the last three matches between these sides but, as the scoreline suggests, this encounter was all about the All Blacks, who dominated for long periods.
In the end, the world champions outscored their opponents by seven tries to two with Aaron Smith (2), Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett all dotting down and Richie Mo’unga added 11 points after slotting four conversions and a penalty.
There was little positive to report for Ireland, who delivered an error-strewn performance and seldom threatened to create try-scoring opportunities. Their points came via a Robbie Henshaw five-pointer which was converted by Joey Carbery and they were also awarded a penalty try.
The All Blacks came out firing from the kick off and raced into a 10-0 lead inside 15 minutes after having a bulk of the possession and they also dominated the territorial stakes.
They opened scoring as early as the sixth minute courtesy of a penalty from Mo’unga and continued to dominate as the half progressed, with great interplay between their forwards and backs on show.
In the 14th minute, their pack set up a good platform deep inside Ireland territory with pick-and-goes – with Kieran Read, Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane – prominent. Smith then made a sniping break through the middle of a ruck close to Ireland’s try-line before diving over for the opening try.
The world champions made full use of the point-scoring opportunities presented to them and extended their lead in the 20th minute when their inside backs did brilliantly to create space for Sevu Reece, who joined the line at pace, which created an overlap. He offloaded to Bridge, who was stopped close to the try-line and from the ensuing ruck Smith, once again, barged over the whitewash from close quarters.
Mo’unga was successful with both conversions which meant the All Blacks were leading 17-0 and in the 32nd minute things went from bad to worse for Ireland when full-back Barrett crossed for his team’s third try.
Ireland were initially on the attack close to the halfway line but aggressive defence from Reece saw Johnny Sexton spilling the ball which was booted upfield by Anton Lienert-Brown. Barrett then kicked ahead before collecting the ball on his way over the try-line and although referee Nigel Owens checked with his TMO to see if Lienert-Brown had played the ball from an offside position, television replays showed that Reece did not touch the ball after his hit on Sexton and the try was awarded.
Although Mo’unga was off target with the conversion attempt, New Zealand went into the half-time break in a confident mood as they held a commanding 22-0 lead.
If Ireland wanted to stay alive in this contest they had to score first after the break but that wasn’t to be as the All Blacks continued with their dominance.
In the 48th minute they went further ahead when Read ran a superb angle to gather a pass from Smith deep inside Ireland’s half but although his progress was halted close to his opponents’ try-line, the All Blacks skipper managed to free his arms before offloading to Taylor, who crashed over under the posts.
Ireland seemed shell-shocked by the intensity of the All Blacks’ onslaught but although they tried desperately to fight back, they continued to commit numerous unforced errors.
The All Blacks did not take their foot off the pedal, however, and in the 61st minute Todd crossed for their fifth try after the ball went through several pairs of hands in the build-up.
Although New Zealand had the game sewn up by then, Ireland did not surrender and opened their account in the 69th minute courtesy of a try from Henshaw after collecting a pass from CJ Stander, who broke off the back of a scrum on New Zealand’s five-metre line.
The world champions were not done yet and struck back with Bridge’s try, after Ardie Savea and Dane Coles did well in the build-up.
Although Ireland were awarded a penalty try shortly afterwards, when Todd prevented Stander from scoring at close quarters, the world champions sealed their win and semi-finals berth when Jordie Barrett scored their seventh try in the game’s dying moments.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith 2, B Barrett, Taylor, Todd, Bridge, J Barrett
Cons: Mo’unga 4
Yellow Card: Todd
Tries: Henshaw, Penalty try
1 Joe Moody, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Nepo Laulala, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 6 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Kieran Read (capt.), 9 Aaron Smith, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 11 George Bridge, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 13 Jack Goodhue, 14 Sevu Reece, 15 Beauden Barrett
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Jordie Barrett
1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best (capt.), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh Van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander, 9 Conor Murray, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 13 Garry Ringrose, 14 Keith Earls, 15 Rob Kearney
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour
Date: Saturday, October 19
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistants: Pascal Gauzere (France), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)