Three-time champions New Zealand inflicted more World Cup heartbreak on Ireland, beating them 28-24 to bring a bitterly disappointing end to Irish captain Johnny Sexton’s stellar career.
The All Blacks put in a brilliant defensive performance to prevail 28-24 over Ireland in a titanic match on Saturday, setting up a meeting with Argentina for a place in the final and destroying Irish dreams of a first world title.
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The defeat ended Ireland’s run of 17 successive Test victories and denied Andy Farrell’s team the chance of a first-ever semifinal.
The All Blacks played for 20 minutes with 14 men against the Six Nations champions and had to dig deep to defend their try line through 40 phases in the dying seconds as the top-ranked Irish searched for a winning try.
It was an eighth quarterfinal loss for the Irish, ended their winning streak at 17 matches and sent flyhalf Sexton into retirement without the glittering prize with which he had hoped to crown his career.
“You’ve got to work hard for fairytale endings and we didn’t get it but that’s life,” 38-year-old Sexton said.
“We left no stone unturned, we ticked every box, trained the house down, and played pretty well tonight. But fair play to the All Blacks.”
While quite different from Ireland’s epic win over South Africa in the pool phase, it was equally engrossing with both teams hitting hard in defence and wanting to use the ball in hand when they got it.
Ireland’s variations in attack caused New Zealand problems all night but the All Blacks were ruthless when they got a sniff of the line to pull away on the scoreboard every time Andy Farrell’s team got close.
‘One hell of a game’
“I am so proud of the way we played. Our defence, particularly in that last part, was brilliant,” said New Zealand coach Ian Foster, who almost lost his job after a home series loss to Ireland last year.
“It was a real arm wrestle. They’re a proud team, Ireland, they really hung in there. I thought we had them a couple of times but they kept making the game really tight.”
Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan scored the tries that sent the three-time champions into the semifinals for the ninth time and avenged last year’s series loss.
“That was one hell of a game and somebody had to lose – unfortunately it was us tonight,” said Ireland coach Farrell.
“I was so proud of the way we came back and kept attacking them right until the death. We’ve had a good run but sport can be cruel sometimes – I guess that’s why we love it.”
The All Blacks come back to Stade de France to meet Argentina next Friday after the Pumas rallied to beat Wales 29-17 in Marseille earlier.
Source: News Agencies