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Ireland left 'devastated' after the better team wins World Cup quarter-final

‘It’s a tough day but that’s sport,’ said flanker Chris Henry.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

JOE SCHMIDT HAS probably watched it five times by now.

He’ll have gone over the lack of width in Ireland’s defence, their failure to bring aggression to the opening quarter, the scrum problems, the penalty miss that meant Ireland didn’t draw level in the second half.

Luke Fitzgerald, Rhys Ruddock and Rob Kearney dejected after the game Dejection for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Over and over again, Schmidt will be racked by the regrets and doubts. What might have been for Ireland.

In truth, they were well beaten by a better team. Plain and simple. Argentina had the sharper players, the more explosive athletes, the more composed decision makers and the more intelligent game plan.

“As a players group we’re devastated because of all of the fans we have and all the people that were there today and the people who have travelled over the last few weeks,” said Chris Henry afterwards.

We didn’t think this would be the end of the journey for us and it’s very tough to take.”

Indeed, this wasn’t supposed to be the end of Ireland’s World Cup journey. Much of the talk outside and around the Millennium Stadium beforehand had been about a semi-final. One hopes that the players didn’t similarly underestimate the Pumas.

The absences of Paul O’Connell and Jared Payne were keenly felt in defence, as Ireland struggled for linespeed and in those outside channels that Payne usually patrols expertly. Peter O’Mahony’s aggressive edge was missed, while Sean O’Brien’s ability to get over the gainline would have been valuable.

Johnny Sexton’s tactical nous might have allowed Ireland to manage their mini-revival more effectively.

“It hurts that any of the lads weren’t there,” said Cian Healy. “It was a valiant effort by the lads there, we hit tackles hard and we worked pretty hard.”

Jamie Heaslip dejected after the game Jamie Heaslip leads his team off in disappointment. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Obviously it’s devastating to have the lads missing from injury and Seanie, but we are a team that’s adaptable and can work to that. It just wasn’t a good performance from us.”

Ireland’s defence was the most disappointing aspect of it all. Previously such an area of strength for Joe Schmidt’s side, they were toyed with by the Pumas’ clever shape and thirst for width.

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The Kearney brothers and Luke Fitzgerald were often left exposed by the narrowness of Ireland’s defence inside them.

“I suppose it comes back to defence and we probably got a bit tight at times in and around the ruck,” said Dave Kearney.

One pass was taking out four or five of our players and we were finding ourselves with a two or three-man overlap and it was tough to deal with.”

Plain and simple. The better team won.

“We worked hard to come back obviously and in the second half I thought the momentum was turning for us,” said Henry. “Unfortunately we were beaten by a much better side today.

“When you invest so much time and effort and see what everyone else has given as well all the players, it’s a tough day but that’s sport, the way it is.”

Were Argentina lucky not to get a red card this afternoon?

Hard to begrudge the brilliant Pumas their World Cup semi-final spot

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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