By Roger Childs
Fast and furious
It was expected to be a tight game and the Irish could look back to a 40-29 win over the All Blacks in 2016 and 16-9 two years later. This time they were never a threat, and the New Zealanders turned on an efficient and dominant performance to win 46-14. And only a bad refereeing decision gave the Irish a second try.
From the start the All Blacks showed their intentions to play a fast, open game and, by running the backs deeper and invariably having an extra man, they were two tries up in the first quarter. From there on it was one-way traffic with seven tries in total.
The Irish did score under the posts late in the game, and were awarded a second highly controversial penalty try. Matt Todd put his body between an Irish forward trying to touch the post with the ball. Todd’s action was quite legitimate, but referee Nigel Owens ruled he had entered the non-existent ruck by the side, sent him off and awarded a penalty try. However, the All Blacks roared back to get the last laugh, when Beauden Barrett set up brother Jordie away to score in the corner in the 80th minute.
A wonderful spectacle
The 60,000 at the ground, plus the millions watching on television around the world, were treated to a rugby master class. The All Blacks were at their best with a combination of rapid passing, backing up the ball carrier, variation in kicking which allowed players to contest the ball, and excellent driving by the forwards in mid field. The pack only lost one lineout, and were efficient in protecting the ruck ball so new attacks could be mounted.
The Irish couldn’t cope with the speed of the New Zealanders and the three Canterbury players who had never faced Ireland before – Richie Mohunga, George Bridge and Sevu Reece – were outstanding on attack. Aaron Smith provided the essential speedy service from scrums and rucks, and Beauden Barrett frequently injected pace in the backline as the extra man.
When the forwards did the “pick and go” in mid field they always made ground and invariably linked up with the backs. A case in point was the sixth try where Ardie Savea made a break of 30 metres, handed on to Dane Coles in support who then sent left winger George Bridge away for the try.
It doesn’t get easier
Next week’s semi-final is against England who thumped Australia 40-16 in their quarter final. That match probably pitches the world’s two best teams against each other. It will be another interesting spectacle and the All Blacks should not be complacent or over-confident. England has a big pack and fast backs, but hopefully the New Zealanders will be able to tire the English forwards. A mouth-watering encounter is in prospect.