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New Zealand edge Ireland in thriller to reach semi-finals

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A ruthless New Zealand side broke Ireland hearts at the Rugby World Cup quarter-final stage again, as the All Blacks prevailed 28-24 at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

In a breathless first half, the All Blacks raced out to a 13-0 lead through a Leicester Fainga’anuku try, and the boots of Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett, but Ireland recovered well to narrow the half-time gap to a single point at 18-17.

Ireland’s Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park scored tries during that opening period – either side of an Ardie Savea try for New Zealand and Aaron Smith’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on – as Andy Farrell’s team fought back, but their inability to strike in the 22 enough proved a major factor as Will Jordan put the All Blacks back to two scores ahead with a second-half try.

Ireland responded again as their pack forced a penalty try when Codie Taylor collapsed a rampaging rolling maul, with Taylor also sin-binned for the act. But the men in green crucially failed to score against the 14 players, suffering yet another agonising last-eight exit.

Mo’unga kicked New Zealand into an early 3-0 lead, and, despite several key Ireland chances in the 22, the All Blacks then blew out the scoreboard on 19 minutes with a stunning counter-attack try down the left. Beauden Barrett created it as he chipped and regathered, before Jordie

Barrett, Fainga’anuku and Rieko Ioane connected superbly, with the latter offloading inside magnificently for Fainga’anuku to score. Mo’unga converted brilliantly for 13-0, but Johnny Sexton finally put Ireland into the scoreboard after a cheap penalty for blocking.

On 27 minutes, Ireland – fuelled by the twinkling feet of Mack Hansen – played on penalty advantage before Aki scored a stunning solo try. Ireland’s line-out continued to falter, however, as, after losing another set-piece, New Zealand produced a 50:22 and were in for their second try

through Savea, quick ball in the 22 paving the way for a diving finish in the corner.

Mo’unga struck wide with the conversion to leave the All Blacks up by eight, but scrum half Smith was sin-binned with four minutes of the half to play. After one Ireland attack was illegally halted, Ireland showed courage to kick to the corner again, from where Gibson-Park sniped and reached to score superbly.

Ireland continued to waste chances when well-placed, though, their first three attacks in the 22 in the second period each coming to nothing as the All Blacks defended strongly.

The stark difference in ruthlessness was then laid bare when Mo’unga and Jordan cut through the heart of Ireland’s defence to score a try off a lineout within their own half.

Jordie Barrett lashed over the touchline conversion for a two-score lead at 25-17, and Ireland then lost key man Hansen to injury, before Sexton should have narrowed the gap back to five points via a penalty but struck poorly wide.

(C.D)

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