New Zealand put on a brilliant defensive performance to edge world number one Ireland 28-24 in a titanic World Cup quarter-final in France this morning.
The All Blacks made a nervous start, flooring two passes and fluffing two clearance kicks but they found their rhythm when Richie Mo’unga kicked the opening penalty, after going through 30 phases inside the Irish 22.
Jordie Barrett added another penalty from 49 metres after a turnover and the All Blacks moved out to a 13-0 lead when winger Fainga’anuku went over in the corner after Beauden Barrett had gathered his own up-and-under.
Ireland cut the deficit with a Johnny Sexton penalty before finally breaching the New Zealand line in the 27th minute when centre Bundee Aki’s blend of footwork and power took him through three tacklers while Sexton converted.
Another chip over the Irish defence got the All Blacks close to the line again six minutes later, though, and No.8 Ardie Savea dived over by the flag to take the lead out to 18-10.
New Zealand halfback Aaron Smith was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on almost immediately, however, and his opposite number Jamison Gibson-Park darted over for a converted try to make it a one-point game at the break.
Yet, New Zealand led 18-17 at the break.
The All Blacks kept their line intact until Smith returned and Mo’unga scythed through the Irish midfield in the 53rd minute and sent winger Will Jordan in for his 28th try in his 29th test and Barrett converted.
Sexton revved up the 78,845 crowd after kicking a penalty to the corner in the 64th minute and referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try, sending All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor to the sin bin in further punishment.
After missing a penalty in the 68th minute, the All Blacks were awarded another penalty in the 69th minute and this time Barrett kicked in between the sticks to snatch the winner, ensuring they ended Ireland’s 17 game winning streak.