Ireland vs New Zealand – Report – Rugby World Cup 2023 – 15 Oct, 2023

New Zealand put in a brilliant defensive performance to prevail 28-24 over Ireland in a titanic World Cup quarter-final on Saturday, setting up a meeting with Argentina for a place in the final and destroying Irish dreams of a first world title.

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 quarter-final loss for the Irish, ended their winning streak at 17 matches and sent flyhalf Johnny Sexton into retirement without the glittering prize with which he had hoped to crown his career.

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 the Six Nations champions got close.

Leicester Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan scored the tries that sent the three-times champions into the semi-finals for the ninth time and avenged their home series loss to the Irish last year.

The Irish fans sang throughout New Zealand’s haka and the All Blacks made a nervous start, flooring two passes and fluffing two clearance kicks.

They soon found their rhythm, however, and came away with the first points from a Richie Mo’unga penalty after going through 30 phases inside the Irish 22.

Jordie Barrett added another penalty from 49 metres after a turnover and the All Blacks moved out to a 13-0 lead in the 19th minute when winger Fainga’anuku went over in the corner after Beauden Barrett had gathered his own up-and-under.

Ireland cut the deficit with a Sexton penalty before finally breaching the New Zealand line in the 27th minute when centre Bundee Aki’s blend of footwork and power took him through three tacklers.

Another chip over the Irish defence got the All Blacks close to the line again six minutes later, though, and number eight Savea dived over by the flag to take the lead out to 18-10.

New Zealand scrumhalf Aaron Smith was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on almost immediately, however, and his opposite number Jamison Gibson-Park darted over for a converted try to make it a one-point game at the break.

The All Blacks kept their line intact until Smith returned and Mo’unga scythed through the Irish midfield in the 53rd minute, racing clear before sending winger Jordan in for his 28th try in his 29th test.

Sexton revved up the 78,845 crowd after kicking a penalty to the corner in the 64th minute and referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try when the Irish maul collapsed, sending hooker Codie Taylor to the sin bin in further punishment for the All Blacks.

Ireland tried another catch-and-drive but came away with nothing and Jordie Barrett added another penalty in the 69th minute to extend the lead to four points and set up a thrilling but scoreless last 10 minutes.

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