From the off, New Zealand looked very dangerous everytime they spread it, but Ireland started well in defense, putting pressure on, and forcing new Zealand into mistakes. This was not to be kept up for the entire 80 minutes though. Ireland for their part, looked good with ball in hand, and suggested that with patience, could score some tries against this less than vintage New Zealand side.
As against Australia though, a mistake when offloading nearly allowed New Zealand a breakaway try, and Adam Byrne was lucky that the ball was kicked out, as he was struggling and pulled the winger back.
Ireland were first to put points on the board though, as a huge kick from the 10m line settled Rory Scannell's nerves and put Ireland 3-0 up. Straight from the restart however, Ireland conceded a penalty, but Simon Hickey, who had an off day with the boot kicked wide.
New Zealand were next to have an opportunity, and from an Ardie Savea break, the scrumhalf Tayler Adams was denied in the corner from a saving Daragh Leader tackle. Dan Leavy made a high tackle from the resulting play, and New Zealand were on the board.
Aimless kicking to the potent New Zealand back three, who were beginning to dominate lead directly to the next points, with Hickey tagging on another 3 points to give New Zealand the lead. Ireland were starting to feel the pressure, but from the kick off, a forward pass from Dan Leavy was all that stopped Gavin Thornbury from a clear run to the line. A penalty from the resulting scrum meant that Scannell leveled the scores once again.
Tom Farrell, who was beginning to impress, showed both good and bad in the next minute, with a brilliant steal, and then giving away a stupid penalty for hands in the ruck. Hickey didn't make him pay, but that signaled a moment of dominance for New Zealand where they took control everywhere except the scrum.
Unfortunately, that was just a short reprieve for Ireland, as Hickey punished some growing indiscipline by the Irish, which ultimately lead to Tom Farrell being sin-binned on the stroke of half time, with New Zealand leading 14-11.
The sin-binning was to prove crucial as New Zealand started to spread the ball wide scoring two tries in quick succession and capitalising on the extra man. Hickey only managed one conversion, which left it at 26-11. New Zealand were now gaining metres with ease and going over with an extra man. They had upped the tempo in defense, with Ardie Savea showing his huge potential and proving a menance. The killer score was a lineout move that exposed a lack of cover near the touchline, with Luke McGrath having no chance to stop hooker Faiva getting his second try from close range.
The final twenty minutes was very absorbing and Ireland dominated, with the Byrnes showing why they are so highly regarded, continuing the scrum dominance and carrying effectively, with Ed finally going over to leave them a try away from the semis with 15 minutes to go.
|Ed Byrne going over to give Ireland hope via IRB.com|
From there, Ireland couldn't capitalise. New Zealand played smart rugby, keeping it tight, and whenever Ireland had a chance, Rory Scholes, who didn't live up to the first two games, made two errors in quick succession to gift possession back to New Zealand.
With two minutes to go, the other New Zealand replacement prop, Sione Mafileo, was not rolling away, but a Chris Taylor stamp reversed the decision, and Ireland's hopes were fading.
In the end, it was Ardie Savea who made yet another turnover to deny Ireland. Mike Ruddock deserves huge credit for getting the most out of his entire squad, and giving the best they could in an extremely difficult group. Hopes were not high going into this competition, but only 5 points from beating New Zealand to enter the semi's is a huge performance.
Now, Ireland are relying on favours from France, but are most likely going to enter the 5th-8th playoffs with Argentina, Scotland and Australia.
Come on the Wolfpuppies.
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