Defeat marks a devastating end to Ireland captain Johnny Sexton’s careerIreland: (17) 24Tries: Aki, Gibson-Park, penalty try Cons: Sexton 2 Pen: SextonNew Zealand: (18) 28Tries: Fainga’anuku, Savea, Jordan Cons: Mo’unga, J Barrett Pens: Mo’unga, J Barrett 2Ireland’s World Cup dream was ended by New Zealand for the second tournament in a row as the All Blacks deservedly beat their rivals in Paris to set up a semi-final against Argentina.
As the world’s top-ranked team, Ireland were fancied to at least reach the semi-finals for the first time but Andy Farrell’s side failed to break their quarter-final curse on another heartbreaking night against the All Blacks in the World Cup.
Defeat also brings the curtain down on the career of Ireland captain Johnny Sexton, who cut a dejected figure at full-time as the agony of one last knockout defeat took over.
New Zealand, however, remain on course for a fourth title as tries by Leicester Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan helped them set up a last-four meeting with the Pumas at Stade de France on Friday.
Ireland’s tries came through New Zealand-born players Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park, and a penalty try, but there was to be no dramatic late comeback despite being roared on by the loud Irish contingent of the 78,845-strong crowd.
New Zealand had two players – Aaron Smith and Codie Taylor – yellow carded but Ian Foster’s side were able to withstand pressure and exact revenge after losing last year’s Test series to the Irish on home soil.
It was another absorbing entry into this great rivalry, and while Ireland pushed for a match-winning try right to the end, it was the New Zealand players with their arms in the air at full-time after a herculean defensive effort as those in green collapsed to the pitch in devastation.
Defeat ends both Ireland’s 17-match winning run and their hopes of emulating England’s 2003 team by winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup double.
The All Blacks, however, will feel hugely confident heading into a semi-final against Argentina, who beat Wales 29-17 earlier on Saturday in Marseille on a day when the southern hemisphere sides completed an impressive double.
Argentina seal World Cup semi-final spot with victory over WalesAll Blacks start strongly again With the sense of rivalry built up by New Zealand’s 2019 quarter-final win and Ireland’s series triumph on Kiwi soil last year, this was easily one of the most eagerly anticipated World Cup knockout games in years, the pre-match atmosphere rivalling the All Blacks’ loss to France in the opening game and the memorable Irish win over South Africa three weeks ago.
In stark contrast to 2019, Ireland were being talked about as pre-match favourites as they looked to end 36 years of hurt in the quarter-finals.
For New Zealand, this was viewed as a tantalising opportunity to not only get revenge on Ireland, but to re-establish the aura and fear factor that the All Blacks jersey has lost in recent years. They did just that.
In the 2019 quarter-final, the All Blacks roared into a 22-0 half-time lead, and while Ireland’s first-half return was much healthier here, it was the three-time champions who were in control at the break.
Given the magnitude of the occasion, both teams showed nerves during the opening exchanges but it was New Zealand who settled quicker, with Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett penalties putting them 6-0 up.
Ireland were devastating in swatting aside Scotland last week, but struggled to build early momentum here, allowing the All Blacks to pull further clear when Beauden Barrett chipped forward, gathered and Fainga’anuku finished in the corner.
Aki, probably Ireland’s player of the tournament, dragged his team back into it with a superb finish but the All Blacks hit back just six minutes later when Savea capped another period of sustained New Zealand pressure by diving over.
Savea celebrated his 30th birthday in style with a try and a superb performanceHowever, Mo’unga – who earlier avoided punishment for a high tackle on Aki – missed his conversion and there was further frustration for the All Blacks when scrum-half Aaron Smith was yellow carded for deliberately knocking the ball on.
And when Smith’s Auckland-born opposite number Gibson-Park produced a superb finish in one of the last plays of the half, it felt for the first time like Ireland had seized momentum.
With Smith having returned to the pitch, the All Blacks turned up the heat on the Irish again after 52 minutes when Jordan crossed after a blistering, defence-puncturing burst by Mo’unga.
Sexton’s missed penalty added to Ireland’s woes but they were given a lifeline when Taylor collapsed the Irish maul and referee Wayne Barnes awarded the penalty try to again reduce New Zealand’s lead to the minimum.
However, having missed a penalty, Jordie Barrett nailed a long-range kick to push the lead back out to four before denying Ireland a try at the other end when he held up Ronan Kelleher with a vital, last-ditch intervention.
Ireland pushed for a last-gasp try but the All Blacks withstood 40 phases of pressure in the closing stages to claim a momentous win over their rivals and leave Sexton and his Irish team-mates to reflect on an excruciating eighth quarter-final defeat.
Line-upsIreland: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (capt), Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; Beirne, Henderson; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.
Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Bealham, McCarthy, Conan, Murray, Crowley, O’Brien.
New Zealand: B Barrett; Jordan, Ioane, J Barrett, Fainga’anuku; Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Lomax, Retallick, S Barrett, Frizell, Cane (capt), Savea.
Replacements: Coles, Williams, Newell, Whitelock, Papali’i, Christie, McKenzie, Lienert-Brown.
Match officialsReferee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)
Touch judges: Matthew Carley (Eng) & Christophe Ridley (Eng)
TMO: Tom Foley (Eng)
Unfiltered access to rugby’s new superstar: Follow Louis Rees Zammit’s remarkable journey from a local talent to international stardomExperience F1 like never before! Relive the Qatar Grand Prix with expert commentary and interviews with Max Verstappen and Lando Norris