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A sorry end to the Schmidt era as All Blacks obliterate Ireland at the World Cup

Despite huge Irish support, Schmidt’s side were dire to record yet another quarter-final defeat.

New Zealand 46

Ireland 14

JOE SCHMIDT ENJOYED some wonderful days during his time as Ireland head coach, but his reign came to an end in a sad, sorry way in Tokyo.

Facing his native New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals and after Ireland had spoken up their confidence all week, Schmidt had to watch on as his team were comprehensively embarrassed by the brilliant seven-try All Blacks.

cian-healy-and-josh-van-der-flier-dejected Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Steve Hansen’s side deserve huge credit for the sheer quality of their play but Ireland’s quite incredible error count fed into the Kiwis’ strengths in an alarming manner. 

Dropped balls, 16 turnovers in total, missed touches, poor running lines, muddy kicking tactics, and more – this was the very worst of Ireland under Schmidt to cap a miserable final year of his time in charge. 

Ireland’s abysmal World Cup record continues with a seventh quarter-final defeat, underlining that Irish rugby has a major problem with the biggest tournament in the game. Schmidt’s men simply didn’t turn up for this huge occasion.

Their handling errors repeatedly invited the All Blacks to attack them, which they did with glee, while Ireland simply couldn’t live with the mobility, energy, skill level and physicality that the All Blacks offered.

Beforehand in Tokyo, it had felt like something special was possible as Ireland stepped towards the haka with The Fields of Athenry reverberating around the stadium courtesy of the remarkable numbers of Irish supporters who somehow got their hands on tickets. 

But within minutes it was clear that Ireland were not going to provide the challenge that the travelling support had hoped for. Instead, back-to-back champions New Zealand march on emphatically to face England in the semi-finals of this World Cup next weekend.

That looks like being an epic contest but the All Blacks’ quality here – led by the sublime Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick – underlined why they are favourites for this tournament. 

rory-best-peter-omahony-iain-henderson-and-cj-stander-dejected Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland, meanwhile, will fly home from Japan hurting very badly. Four years on from the pain of a harrowing quarter-final defeat to Argentina at the last World Cup in which they were shockingly poor in the first quarter, Schmidt’s side again started disastrously. 

Needing to get the early lead for their pressure game to have an effect here, Ireland instead found themselves 17-0 down after the first quarter, the game essentially over.

Schmidt was, in truth, let down by his trusted leaders, as Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw, and Keith Earls led a long list of players who made the kind of errors that killed Ireland in this game. 

Simply put, not a single Irish player can come out of this humiliation with credit. It was a collective failing of epic proportions on what had promised to be their biggest day under Schmidt. 

Ireland captain Best’s professional career ends here in miserable fashion, with the Ulster man jogging off in the 63rd minute with his team already 34-0 down in a World Cup quarter-final.

It’s a dire conclusion to Schmidt’s time in charge and there’s little doubt that two World Cup quarter-finals leave an asterisk beside his name. His achievements prior to this – a Grand Slam, two further Six Nations titles, a series win in Australia and Ireland’s first two wins over the All Blacks – cannot be underestimated, but this will leave a sour taste. 

Assistant coach Andy Farrell will take over from Schmidt in the coming weeks and is contracted through until the 2023 World Cup. Whether Ireland can get beyond a quarter-final at that stage remains to be seen but for now they remain a truly awful World Cup nation.

jonathan-sexton-peter-omahony-and-tadhg-furlong-dejected Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland’s first-half was truly abysmal. CJ Stander was turned over by Read and Whitelock in a choke tackle in the opening minutes before the Kiwis took the lead through Mo’unga’s boot when as Stockdale was penalised for a deliberate knock-on.

Ireland’s error count continued as they failed to deal with a Mo’unga bomb and then Henshaw had an ultra basic knock-on as Schmidt’s men finally got a lineout platform to attack from. 

That mistake led onto the Kiwis’ first try, which saw them grind with pick-and-gos in the Ireland 22 before the sharp Smith sniped to the left of a close-range ruck and captain Best was slow to close to the fringe of the ruck, failing to stop the Kiwi scrum-half.

Mo’unga’s conversion left New Zealand 10-0 to the good with just 14 minutes played, and Ireland’s errors just kept rolling. Sexton had a chance to put his team into a strong attacking position with a penalty but his linekick down the left was kept in play by Mo’unga for a major missed chance.

Next came a lineout error as Ireland knocked-on and the All Blacks struck in stunning fashion from the resulting scrum. Jack Goodhue’s sublime catch-and-pass under prssure from Ireland’s blitz defence got the ball to Sevu Reece in space and he fed Bridge for a surge to within a few metres.

Again, Smith struck from close-range as Stockdale simply watched on. 

beauden-barrett-celebrates-scoring-a-try Source: Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Peter O’Mahony did his best to drag Ireland back into the game with a lineout steal and a breakdown turnover penalty but they just kept dropping the ball, Earls the next guilty party.

Ireland’s kicking game, so often a comforting strength, became erratic too. Even when the Irish created space wide on the left in the 32nd minute, they lost possession, Sexton spilling the ball backwards in Reece’s strong hit and Mo’unga hacking ahead for fullback Barrett to streak forward and gather for a superb turnover try. 

Ireland had a late visit into the New Zealand 22, a chance to at least make up some of the 22-0 deficit, but O’Mahony had an Irish penalty overturned when he dove off his feet and hit a Kiwi player at a ruck.

Faced with the most demanding uphill task, Ireland started the second half with yet another error as Stockdale misjudged an All Blacks kick near the left touchline and gave them a lineout platform. 

The Kiwis had their fifth try within eight minutes of the restart, going back into grind mode until captain Read wonderfully offloaded out of the tackle for hooker Codie Taylor to score. Mo’unga’s conversion made it 29-0.

ireland-players-dejected Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The All Blacks’ sixth came as the game entered the final quarter, as Mo’unga cross-kicked to Reece off the back of a powerful maul before replacement scrum-half TJ Perenara popped to sub back row Matt Todd to barrel over. 

Ireland looked to have finally made a dent on the scoreboard in the 67th minute as sub Joey Carbery grubbured through for Henshaw but he knocked-on in the in-goal area.

Henshaw did make up for it from the penalty advantage that had been playing, Ireland opting for a scrum and the inside centre powering over on a switch to ensure Schmidt’s team weren’t nilled. 

It was a try reminiscent of that great day in Chicago in 2016 but nothing else about this Ireland performance was.

The All Blacks were in the mood for more as they swept to another score, sub hooker Dane Coles offloading beautifully to wing George Bridge at the end of a slick attack.

Ireland managed another late score with a penalty try but there was no consolation at the end of another dark day at the World Cup for Irish rugby, as Jordie Barrett sealed the humiliation with a seventh Kiwi try in the final minute. 

New Zealand scorers:

Tries: Aaron Smith [2], Beauden Barrett. Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge, Jordie Barrett

ConversionsRichie Mo’unga [4 from 7]

PenaltiesRichie Mo’unga [1 from 1]

Ireland scorers:

TriesRobbie Henshaw, Penalty try

ConversionsJoey Carbery [1 from 1]

NEW ZEALAND: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece (Jordie Barrett ’63), Jack Goodhue (Sonny Bill Williams ’53), Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith (TJ Perenara ’61); Joe Moody (Ofa Tuungafasi ’48), Codie Taylor (Dane Coles ’61), Nepo Laulala (Angus Ta’avao ’48); Brodie Retallick (Matt Todd ’57 (yellow card ’77), Sam Whitelock; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (Scott Barrett ‘HT), Kieran Read (captain).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Jordan Larmour ’53); Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose (blood – Jordan Larmour ’5 to ’10), Robbie Henshaw (blood – Jordan Larmour ’22 to ’27), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Joey Carbery ’63), Conor Murray (Luke McGrath ’74); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’49), Rory Best (captain) (Niall Scannell ’63), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’61); Iain Henderson (Tadhg Beirne ’49), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (Rhys Ruddock ’57), Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Referee: Nigel Owens [Wales].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo Stadium

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