Ruddock's troops fail to maintain the momentum
Ireland ended their campaign on a losing note against hosts New Zealand yesterday, despite leading at half-time.
New Zealand 45 Ireland 23 - IRB Junior Rugby World Cup
Mike Ruddock's side faced a daunting task against the 'Baby Blacks' at Eden Park in their 3rd/4th place play-off and were 40 minutes away from a famous victory.
However, a rampant New Zealand pulled away in a blistering second-half display to leave Ireland with a fourth-place finish. Ross Byrne kicked three first-half penalties as well as converting two tries to give Ireland a 23-21 lead at the break.
New Zealand opened the scoring inside 10 minutes when Tevita Li dotted down for a try which Damian McKenzie converted before Richard Mo'unga added a second, threatening a long evening for Ireland.
But Byrne hit back with two penalties before the referee awarded Ireland a penalty try. The visitors then took the lead for the first time when Byrne fired over a third penalty before a Tevita Li try put the Baby Blacks back in front.
But there was still time left for another twist in what was a rollercoaster first half. Oisín Heffernan's opportunistic converted try gave Ireland a slender two-point lead at the break.
Any hopes of an Irish victory were soon dashed though as New Zealand came out firing in the second half.
Four more tries from James Tucker, Mitchell Drummond, Mo'unga and Lachlan Boshier put them out of sight as Ruddock's youngsters failed to register a score in the second period.
It was a cruel way to end what has been a very good tournament for Ireland. Several of their key players are underage for next year's Junior World Cup and this experience will undoubtedly stand to them.
New Zealand: D McKenzie; V Tavae-Aso, A Lienert-Brown (c) (D Kaetau Havili 59), TJ Faiane (K Finau 44), T Li; R Mo'unga, M Drummond (J Renton 74); A Moli (S Mellow 73), H Faiva (J O'Reilly 62), T Koloamatangi (T Cadwallader h/t), J Tucker, G Cridge (T Callender 72), T Sanders (K Harris 25), L Boshier, M Peni.
Ireland: C Kelleher; C Gaffney, G Ringrose, H Brewer, A Wootton (D Goggin 53); R Byrne (C McKeon 67), N McCarthy (R Foley 65); P Dooley (D Coulson 74), D Donnellan (M Abbott 62), O Heffernan (R Burke 55); D Moloney (S Gardiner 53), Ross Molony; P Timmins (c), Rory Moloney (J Murphy 73), F Taggart.
Referee: A Ruiz (France).