Home » Ireland v New Zealand media reaction as curse continues in game that ‘deserved to be Rugby World Cup final’
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Ireland v New Zealand media reaction as curse continues in game that ‘deserved to be Rugby World Cup final’

A teary-eyed Johnny Sexton said he was “gutted” to end to his glittering career in a heartbreaking World Cup exit at the hands of New Zealand. Andy Farrell’s class of 2023 were bidding to make history in Paris by becoming the first Irish team to reach the last four of the tournament.

But the world’s top-ranked team trailed for most of an enthralling contest and New Zealand saw off a late siege, before the final scoreline saw Ireland on the wrong side of a 28-24 score as their quarter-final curse continued. The All Blacks held on in the closing minutes despite 37 phases of Irish attack to set up a semi-final with Argentina at Stade de France on Friday, October 20.

Veteran fly-half Sexton, who travelled to France with ambitions of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup before retirement, tipped his team-mates to come back stronger in his absence during an emotional post-match press conference.

All Blacks No. 8 Ardie Savea, named the Mastercard player of the match, expressed his pride in their performance. “There was a lot riding on this week,” he said. “It was one of those test matches that was a battle. To go out there and play against a world-class Irish squad, we gave the fans what they wanted. This Irish team have set the standard this whole year. I just want to send love to them. I am just so proud of my boys.”

Captain Sam Cane, who also had an outstanding game, said his side were “absolutely stoked” to reach a ninth semi-final in 10 tournaments. “It was a crazy test match, an absolute arm wrestle for 83 or 84 minutes, both teams going at it,” he said. “A lot of credit has to go to Ireland. They have set the standard round world rugby for the last couple of years so we knew the challenge that we had here. I am super proud of the effort that went into the week’s preparation. Our ability to defend our line for 30-plus phases at the end, that’s huge. What an atmosphere, what a game, what a tournament to be part of and I’m just really happy to have another week.”

Ireland boss Andy Farrell also paid tribute to 38-year-old captain Sexton, who is retiring from rugby now their tournament is at an end. “First and foremost he’s an outstanding human being,” he added. “He’s probably the best ever player to play for Ireland and when you’re 38 and playing your best rugby, it says a lot about the man.”

Sexton also said his overriding emotion was pride in his team and the Irish nation at large. “We couldn’t have done any more, it’s just fine margins,” he said. “They sucker-punched us on a few tries and that’s what champion teams do. We knew they were a great side and we fell just short unfortunately. This six weeks has been a dream – this group, these fans and I’m just gutted we couldn’t do it for them.”

Here is how the world’s media reacted to the game:

The Telegraph

The Telegraph described how the Ireland players sank to the ground after the game as “Johnny Sexton stared into the distance in disbelief”. The review of the game says: “Both sides had delivered a phenomenal contest, arguably the best quarter-final in World Cup history, but once again it ended in lung-bursting heartbreak for Ireland.

“It was a game so compelling and of such quality that it deserved to be the final. New Zealand’s reward is a semi-final against Argentina and they will now fancy their chances of going all the way now. One wonders if Ireland will ever get such a chance again.

“It was a cruel end to a glittering career for the 38-year-old Sexton, who had hoped to take Ireland into the uncharted waters of a semi-final for the first time in World Cup history. Yet once again it was New Zealand who brought their knock-out hopes to a crushing end, just as they had done four years ago in Japan, and once again proved that being the number one side in the world rankings counts for little when it matters most.”

The Guardian

The Guardian writes about Ireland’s “agony” as they failed to break the quarter-final curse. Michael Alywin says: “The agony goes on. Ireland must wonder what they have to do to break this quarter-final curse, how long to spend as No 1 in the world, how many grand slams to win, how many victories in a row. Instead, let the record state: eight quarter-finals, eight defeats.

“So much came to an end. Not just the dream of a World Cup semi-final; not just the career of Johnny Sexton, who wandered the pitch in tears at the end; not just a run of 17 consecutive Test wins, only one shy of the record held by England and, yes, these blessed All Blacks.

“No one can deny they earned it. Few teams could have held out as they did through 37 phases of Irish attack at the death, the clock long turned red, exhausted runners coming at exhausted defenders from every which angle. There was heroism everywhere in a fixture so enthralling it actually seemed to subdue by the end a Stade de France packed to the gunwales with Irish and Kiwis. But there could be no arguing with the result, even if the teams ran and muscled tries past each other in equal measure, three apiece.”

Tommy Bowe, Rugby Union Daily podcast

Former Ireland international Tommy Bowe said he felt “genuinely sick” after the result. “I’m so devastated,” he said. “There was such an air of optimism about this team and deservedly so, they’ve played some wonderful rugby in this competition. They couldn’t be any better prepared, they’ve ticked every box going into this competition but unfortunately it’s another quarter-final, it’s another loss, and credit to New Zealand, they turned up here, they did their homework, they knew exactly where to attack this Irish team to slow the ball down and frustrate them, and they did just that.

“It’s so difficult to have to go through this again. We’re the number one team going into this competition but again for the eighth time, we are knocked out in a quarter-final and it just hurts because when are they going to get this monkey off their backs? I am still reeling in the fact we had the opportunity there to go and beat the All Blacks and create that history, get ourselves to a semi-final – something that an Irish team has never done.”

New Zealand Herald

Luke Kirkness wrote: “Through immense grit and grind, the All Blacks have fought their way through Ireland to book a Rugby World Cup semifinal showdown with Argentina next weekend. “Wave after wave of Ireland’s green jerseys threw themselves at the New Zealand line with the clock ticking down. Ireland probed left, right, and tried pushing through the middle. Every attack was repelled until, finally, Ireland’s 37th phase ended and, with it, Irish hopes of a first semifinal were extinguished by a black blanket.

“For all of their attacking, try-scoring might, New Zealand showed how to grind it out the hard way. The All Blacks withstood three comebacks from top-ranked Ireland and two yellow cards to win their gripping quarter-final 28-24 on Sunday and stay on course for a record fourth title.”


Neil Treacy wrote that “the better team won” and said it was a “familiar feeling, but one that never gets any easier”. He said: “Ireland’s World Cup dream is over, and once again it’s ended at the quarter-final hurdle. This time we believed it would be different and in a way it was. For once, New Zealand were underdogs against this all-conquering Irish side, but it was the All Blacks who showed their class. There can be no denying the better team won at the Stade de France.

“It will come as little consolation to Ireland that their 28-24 defeat was one of the all-time great World Cup games. This wasn’t like Wellington in 2011 where they never landed a shot, or Cardiff or Tokyo where they were blown out of the water. Andy Farrell’s side looked like they had this game lost three times over and were still there at the end with a chance to win. It will come as little consolation.”

The Times

Stephen Jones assured Ireland that they didn’t let anyone down. He wrote: “Not for the first time, an outstanding rugby team fell victim to the nous and pride of the All Blacks. The teams hardly compared with their recent form — Ireland were way ahead, encouraging the highest hopes, and the sensational setting last evening at the Stade de France had contained vast waves of expectation that Ireland would reach the semi- final simply as a prelude.

“But they did not, and were never really established in a winning position, for all their passion and effort. New Zealand brought with them the archetypal game plan to beat Ireland, with a range of clever kicks into space, a refusal to simply hoof every kick back from whence it came, and they also had the class in their attacking game to score when it became vital. Ireland probably had the majority of possession, and they let nobody down, but on the day they seemed to be up against a team who were tactically and probably technically superior, and Johnny Sexton at fly-half simply could not conjure a winning score as the game went on and on.”

TNT Sport

Tom Bennett said New Zealand “had just enough to edge out a very hard-fought victory” He said: “The encounter had absolutely everything and was engrossing until the very end as Ireland came up just short of the line in their desperate pursuit for what would have been a match-winning try at the death as the All Blacks held on. New Zealand held on in a pulsating Rugby World Cup quarter-final to deny Ireland in the tournament’s best game so far.

“Both teams played stunning rugby for large periods, with the All Blacks clicking right from the start as they burst into an early lead. New Zealand survived an extraordinary spell of Irish possession that lasted more than 30 phases as they threw everything at that late score, falling agonisingly short to exit the tournament at the quarter-final stage once again. No side deserved to lose what was a match befitting of the World Cup final.”

Source: Wales Online