All Blacks embarrass Ireland

Oh Ireland, this must be the cruelest one of all. Yet to win a Rugby World Cup knockout match, they have been sent packing by an All Blacks side who are genuinely at the top of their game and who now find themselves in a semifinal against England next Saturday.

Brace yourselves, it is likely to be an epic, and yes, another clash of styles. Will all-out attack win that one too? The All Blacks will back themselves to do it all again in Yokohama because why change a winning formula?

It means the three-peat remains on for Steve Hansen's men. And how. They were on a different level to Ireland at Tokyo Stadium tonight, in fact they appeared to be playing a different game altogether.

The All Blacks congratulate George Bridge during their comprehensive win over Ireland in Tokyo....
The All Blacks congratulate George Bridge during their comprehensive win over Ireland in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters

It was a remarkable performance and England coach Eddie Jones, who cheekily said he was looking forward to seeing the All Blacks in the semifinal after his side thrashed the Wallabies in Oita, is likely to have been as impressed as everyone else.

The contrast between the two teams was apparent very early. The All Blacks were direct, physical, and perhaps most importantly executed a very clever game plan which took away Ireland's rush defence - their greatest weapon.

They were also supremely accurate. So much for paying for that cancelled Italy pool match in Toyota City. They missed only one tackle in the first half. And their ball handling was beyond compare.

Ireland, on the other hand, were tentative, put passes down and were continually flummoxed by the All Blacks' speed of thought and execution. They might as well have tried to hold back a typhoon.

Johnny Sexton, who received a knock early, was way off, with the All Blacks playmakers Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett completely bossing the first half. The only poor piece of execution was Mo'unga over-kicking a kick for touch in the 37th minute. He got a bit greedy perhaps and tried to carve off too much territory, but he could hardly be blamed for rolling the dice.

The All Blacks never let Ireland get going, dominating the entire game. Photo: Reuters
The All Blacks never let Ireland get going, dominating the entire game. Photo: Reuters

Skipper Kieran Read was immense, but they all played their part, even down to the ball carrying of Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala. Hansen said he wanted ball-playing props in the mould of Irishmen Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong, well his pair had it all over their opposites.

For all the build-up and the incredible anthems and haka, which was drowned out by a passionate version of the Fields of Anthenry, this was not the quarter-final that many predicted. In fact, it wasn't much of a contest once Aaron Smith scored the second of his two tries, both from darts around attacking rucks.

A Beauden Barrett special – a kick and chase from Mo'unga's hack through after another thunderbolt Sevu Reece tackle – pretty much sealed it after 32 minutes. An Irish penalty on halftime, reversed after flanker Peter O'Mahony led with his shoulder to clean out a ruck, may have summed up their performance; poorly timed and inaccurate.

Once Codie Taylor scored after halftime it was only a matter of how many the All Blacks would win by. Matt Todd and George Bridge scored too. Jordie Barrett's was a cruel one with a minute left.

Ireland at least got on the scoreboard with a try for Robbie Henshaw after he fluffed one minutes earlier, with referee Nigel Owens, who had a good game overall, throwing a late spanner in the works when awarding a penalty try against the All Blacks and sinbinning Todd for being offside on his line.

But poor old Ireland weren't at the races. Now they're going home. The All Blacks keep going.

All Blacks 46 (Aaron Smith 2, Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge, Jordie Barrett tries; Richie Mo'unga pen, 4 cons)
Ireland 14 (Robbie Henshaw try, penalty try; Johnny Sexton con)
Halftime: 22-0

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