Smith blitzkrieg kills off Irish challenge
WORLD CUP MATCH REPORT: Aaron Smith scored two early tries to start a rout that saw New Zealand beat Ireland 46-14 in their quarterfinal showdown in Tokyo on Saturday.
The seven-tries-to-two victory mean Ireland continued their record of never getting past the quarterfinals in the global showpiece.
The two-time defending champion All Blacks will now prepare to play England next week in the semifinal.
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Smith scored two great opportunistic tries to give the All Blacks a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter – a position from where Ireland would never come back.
And it got worse – Beauden Barrett scoring on the half-hour mark to make it 22-0 at half-time.
The All Blacks, seeking a third successive World Cup title, scored four more in the second period.
Pivot Richie Mo’unga contributed 11 points with the boot to extend to 18 games New Zealand’s winning World Cup record – they have not lost since France’s 20-18 quarterfinal win in 2007.
The victory also extended their record to 29 wins from 32 games against Ireland, who had won two of the last three meetings between the two sides, but now exit at the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup for a record seventh time.
The All Blacks had a front-loaded Pool B, winning their crucial opening match against South Africa to enable coach Steve Hansen to rotate his squad for games against Canada and Namibia.
Their final pool match against Italy was cancelled because of the deadly Typhoon Hagibis that swept through eastern Japan, meaning their last proper match – an academic victory over the Namibians – was a full 13 days ago.
But there was certainly no ring-rustiness on show at Tokyo Stadium as a powerful, off-loading All Blacks side handed out an absolute masterclass in game management, allying superb ball retention with a ferocious, smothering defence for which the Irish had no answer.
Mo’unga opened the scoring with a sixth-minute penalty after Jacob Stockdale was penalised for a deliberate knock-on.
New Zealand worked the close quarters around the ruck early on, and there were only so many waves of attack Ireland could withstand before wilting, Smith darting over from short range.
Sexton spurned a shot at goal to go for the corner, but Mo’unga produced an athletic leap to keep the ball in play, eventually finding the ubiquitous Beauden Barrett inside him for the clearance.
Smith got his second shortly afterwards following an initial slick midfield move that saw the impressive Sevu Reece loop around and find fellow wing George Bridge, whose mazy run saw him squirm his way up to the line.
The All Black scrumhalf was on hand to muscle his way over despite the attentions of Stockdale and Conor Murray. Two Mo’unga conversions and suddenly New Zealand were 17-0 up.
The All Blacks’ defensive wall did its work when Reece hit the heavily marked Jonny Sexton, dislodging the ball for Mo’unga to kick ahead, with Barrett on hand to collect his own additional dribble and cross for a third try.
Ireland hadn’t helped themselves in the first-half, guilty of falling off tackles, handling errors and poor kicking.
The second period started no better for them, outclassed by New Zealand’s sublime off-loading skills.
When Kieran Read took a flat ball off Smith, he turned hitting the floor and popped to Codie Taylor, the hooker flopping over under the posts for a try, Mo’unga adding the extras.
Replacement flank Matt Todd was next on the scoresheet, shooting over from short range after Reece had taken a cross-field kick from Barrett and got to within a yard of the line.
Ireland briefly stirred, with Joey Carbery on for Sexton, centre Robbie Henshaw crossing for a try and referee Nigel Owens awarding a penalty try after Todd infringed.
But New Zealand underlined their credentials as World Cup contenders with a wonderful sixth try, Bridge finishing off a move that saw Ardie Savea make a turnover and Dane Coles produce a fantastic one-handed off-load that summed up the All Blacks’ superior attacking intent.
Jordie Barrett went over for a final try at the whistle as New Zealand now turn their sights on England.
Man of the match: For Ireland Christiaan Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Rory Best tried their damnedest. New Zealand forwards like Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Cody Taylor laid the platform with their hard work. And behind such a dominant pack Aaron Smith had a field day. The scrumhalf sparked the All Blacks’ early blitz with two brilliant individual tries and at the end of the first quarter, the game was effectively over as a contest – the Kiwis leading 17-0 and Ireland already a dejected team.
Moments of the match: Without a doubt, it was the Aaron Smith blitzkrieg – the first two tries, in the 14th and 20th minutes. From there on Ireland was chasing the game and under pressure, they continued to make mistakes and gifting New Zealand opportunities. The frustration of not being able to get back into the game resulted in Ireland’s discipline becoming a major issue and costing them.
Villain: The entire Ireland team – for failing to make a real contest of the game’.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith 2, B Barrett, Taylor, Todd, Bridge, J Barrett
Cons: Mo’unga 4
Tries: Henshaw, Penalty try
Cons: Carbery, penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow card: Matt Todd (New Zealand, 76 – cynical foul, offside and preventing a possible try)
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Cody Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
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.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)