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Abject failure for Ireland as Joe Schmidt's last game ends in humiliating World Cup loss to rampant All Blacks

New Zealand 46 Ireland 14

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Ireland's Keith Earls (right) and Johnny Sexton appear dejected during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match at Tokyo Stadium. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 19, 2019. Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Ireland's Keith Earls (right) and Johnny Sexton appear dejected during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match at Tokyo Stadium. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 19, 2019. Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Ireland's Keith Earls (right) and Johnny Sexton appear dejected during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match at Tokyo Stadium. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 19, 2019. Adam Davy/PA Wire.

This was supposed to be the best-coached, best-prepared Ireland team in World Cup history but they leave Japan in humiliation after an abject, error-strewn performance handed the All Blacks a comfortable win in Tokyo.

The Joe Schmidt era was built on a number of fundamentals, with accuracy and discipline high on the list. It is now over after a night littered by mistakes and penalties.

They have enjoyed great success under the departing head coach, but when it mattered most they gave a performance that will haunt them for the rest of their days.

No Irish coach has ever had a better set of circumstances coming into a Rugby World Cup, the roadblocks to success had been removed from above and he and the players had achieved every one of their targets in the four years since injury ruined their campaign in Cardiff.

But they fell off a cliff in 2019, apparently burdened by the pressure of being counted among the best teams in the world and unable to work the magic they had produced so often in the previous season.

New Zealand were excellent; they expected a challenge from a team who had beaten them twice in three meetings but what they got was a procession into a semi-final date with England.

Once again, Ireland and their fans will watch the business end of rugby’s show-piece event from their couches back home if they can bear it.

The inquest will begin immediately, the nature of this display will put huge pressure on Andy Farrell who is being promoted from within and now has huge issues to fix to avoid the same old story being repeated in France in four years’ time.

The All Blacks were always going to come out of the traps with a ferocity and Ireland, like so often this year, struggled to get to the pitch.

CJ Stander was held up in contact after a predictable carry, while Jacob Stockdale handed Richie Mo’unga a chance to kick his side ahead with a deliberate knock on and the All Black out-half made no mistake.

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Ireland’s midfield was disrupted when Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw clashed heads and both were forced off at different stages of the half.

And the men in green just couldn’t execute their own plan.

They brilliantly engineered a break for Rory Best, but the captain somehow didn’t spot Keith Earls on his shoulder and then when he finally got the ball the winger spilled it in contact and Jordan Larmour did well to scramble back.

Henshaw then knocked on to invite more pressure, with Rob Kearney doing well to scramble back to stop the first wave.

Still, New Zealand kept their cool and went through their phases as they patiently waited for their moment until Aaron Smith stepped against the grain and Best couldn’t stop the inevitable.

Mo’unga converted and, after just 14 minutes, Ireland were staring down the barrel.

When James Ryan was taken out off the ball, they had a chance to attack but Johnny Sexton went for everything with his kick and that allowed Mo’unga to get into the air and brilliantly keep the ball in.

So, Ireland had a lineout around half-way instead of 5m out. James Ryan couldn’t hold the throw, Tadhg Furlong knocked on and the Kiwis countered with Jack Goodhue superbly releasing Sevu Reece. Earls made the tackle, but Smith again darted around the blindside to score.

Peter O’Mahony tried to rouse the troops by stealing a lineout and following it up with a poach penalty, but his team-mates couldn’t follow.

It was all summed up when Sexton and Kearney got into a muddle, Reece hit the out-half hard and dislodged the ball and Mo’unga chipped ahead. Beauden Barrett put the after-burners on and, after a long look at the initial incident, Nigel Owens awarded the try.

Mo’unga missed his first kick of the day, but Ireland continued to make unforced errors and escaped further punishment when the All Black out-half kicked it dead when going for the corner after a Conor Murray high tackle.

The scrum-half did make a break to give his side hope of a score and they managed to force their way into All Black territory with a couple of penalties but just when they appeared to be putting some good pressure on deep into injury time O’Mahony brainlessly thundered into Ardie Savea and Owens reversed a penalty against the All Black blindside.

That was it for a dreadful first-half from an Irish perspective, but things didn’t get any better after half-time and after a long series of phases the men in black made it 27-0, with Codie Taylor appearing on Kieran Read’s shoulder to score their fourth try.

After that, it was a matter of how much as Ireland crumbled.

Matt Todd added the fifth try after a clever cross-kick from Mo'unga found Reece on the wing. Ringrose covered well, but TJ Perenara found the sub flanker on his shoulder and Andrew Porter couldn't stop him.

Schmidt withdrew his leaders and the young men who replaced them at least brought something different to the party, with Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour asking questions of the New Zealand defence.

Henshaw should have scored, but he spilled the Munster out-half's chip in behind, but he made up for it seconds later as Owens went back for the advantage and Stander carried hard, found the centre and he stepped inside the cover and over.

Any relief from that score was gone soon after as Savea turned the ball over and then threw a ludicrously good off-load for George Bridge to score. Mo'unga's conversion took his side's total to 41 points.

Another piece of electric Larmour play took his side into the '22 and, when they kicked a resultant penalty into the corner, they managed to earn a penalty try when Todd blocked Stander from scoring at the base illegally.

That wasn't the final say, however, as Jordie Barrett went over in the corner for his team's seventh and final try.

NEW ZEALAND – B Barrett; S Reece, J Goodhue (SB Williams 53), A Lienert-Brown, G Bridge; R Mo’unga, A Smith (TJ Peranara 61); J Moody (O Tuungafasi 48), C Taylor (D Coles ), N Laulala (A Ta’avao 48); B Retallick, S Whitelock; A Savea, S Cane (S Barrett h-t), K Read (capt)

IRELAND – R Kearney (J Larmour 53); K Earls, G Ringrose (J Larmour 5-10 blood), R Henshaw (J Larmour 22-27), J Stockdale; J Sexton (J Carbery 63), C Murray; C Healy (D Kilcoyne 49), R Best (capt) (N Scannell 63), T Furlong (A Porter 61); I Henderson (T Beirne 49), J Ryan; P O’Mahony (R Ruddock 57), J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Ref: N Owens (Wales)

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