Ireland’s quest to reach a World Cup semi-final goes on.
Joe Schmidt’s crestfallen face said it all.
In the 78th minute, seconds after a content Steve Hansen stood up to make his way towards the touchline, the cameras panned to the Ireland manager in the stands at Ajinomoto Stadium.
Schmidt looked utterly forlorn in the gantry as he watched his players bow out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a whimper in his last ever game at the helm.
The All Blacks were content to show the meaningless of world rankings as they plundered seven tries in a devastating 46-14 win in Tokyo.
Hansen’s side swept Ireland aside with ease, scoring three tries before half time and another four after the interval.
Ireland have now lost seven Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, more than any other nation in history.
New Zealand made a strong start, recording the first points of the game in the sixth minute through a Richie Mo’unga penalty following a knock on from Jacob Stockdale.
The excellent Aaron Smith – winning his 90th cap – scored the game’s first try in the 14th minute, darting over the try-line off the back of a ruck.
Mo’unga added a conversion to make it 10-0 inside the opening quarter.
Ireland tried to muster a response, but Johnny Sexton’s attempted kick to touch was kept in play brilliantly by Mo’unga.
Smith notched his second try in the 20th minute, driving over the line after a strong carry from George Bridge.
Another Mo’unga conversion made it 17-0.
The world champions grabbed their third try in the 32nd minute, capitalizing on some poor play from Ireland.
A mix-up between Sexton and Rob Kearney led to a loose ball, with Sevu Reece’s strong tackle on the former enough to dislodge the ball.
Mo’unga kicked the loose ball forward, before Beauden Barrett kicked the ball ahead of himself and raced over the whitewash for his 35th international try.
21 – Beauden Barrett made 21 carries in #NZLvIRE, the most ever by an @AllBlacks player in a @rugbyworldcup match, surpassing the previous best tally set by John Kirwan and Buck Shelford who both made 20 against Italy in 1987. Key.#RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/S2frj6ZYKM
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 19, 2019
Mo’unga then missed his conversion on this occasion, but it mattered little.
Ireland made their first foray into the All Blacks’ 22 in the dying seconds of the first half, but a rare spell of pressure eventually ended after Peter O’Mahony committed an infringement at the breakdown.
The All Blacks led 22-0 at the interval, with Ireland scarcely creating any openings of note in the first half.
Their lead at the break was the biggest by any team in the Rugby World Cup since 2003, when France led Ireland 27-0 at the half-way point.
From an Irish perspective, it was a first half laden with frustrating handling errors and unforced mistakes.
Ireland missed 10 tackles in the opening 40 minutes, with New Zealand missing just one out of 75.
The All Blacks notched their fourth try in the 48th minute through Codie Taylor, who crashed over following Kieran Read’s delightful pop-pass from the ground.
Mo’unga’s third conversion of the game extended Hansen’s team’s lead even further.
Matt Todd got in on the act shortly after the hour mark, going over after another strong carry from Reece.
Soon afterwards, Ireland captain Rory Best – appearing in his last ever international – came off to a standing ovation from the travelling Irish supporters.
Schmidt made several changes as the second half wore on, including the introduction of Joey Carbery for the disappointing Sexton.
After a strong spell of Irish possession, Carbery produced a clever kick to send Henshaw through for a try.
However, Henshaw somehow failed to control the bouncing ball, knocking it forward when all he had to was ground it.
Henshaw atoned for his error in the 69th minute, driving over the line to register Ireland’s first try after good work from CJ Stander following a strong scrum.
Carbery converted, but New Zealand bagged another try at the other end within three minutes.
George Bridge was the latest Kiwi to cross the whitewash, being sent clear by Dane Coles’ excellent offload.
Mo’unga converted once more.
Ireland were then awarded a penalty try in the 76th minute after Matt Todd clearly obstructed Stander under the posts.
New Zealand still had time to hit back, registering try number seven in the 79th minute.
Beauden Barrett flung the ball out wide to his brother Jordie on the right flank, with the latter diving over to round off an emphatic victory for the reigning champions.
Barrett’s try was virtually the last action of a game in which the result long since a foregone conclusion.
As impressive as Hansen’s team were, Ireland were atrocious on the biggest stage. They looked a far cry from the team which beat the All Blacks 11 months ago, and conceded an infuriating 16 turnovers in total.
The All Blacks will now face England – who beat Australia earlier this morning – in the semi-final in Yokohama on Saturday.
For Ireland, it’s the end of the road for captain Best and head coach Schmidt.
Andy Farrell will replace Schmidt for 2020, and will be tasked with lifting the team up from this demoralizing demolition.