The Blacks have become the Blacks again.

Defeated in the opening match of the competition by the French XV (27-13), the All Blacks, who were said to be in decline, have continuously gained strength…

Defeated in the opening match of the competition by the French XV (27-13), the All Blacks, who were said to be in decline, have continuously gained momentum during the first round, scoring 96 points against Namibia and notably 73 against Uruguay. However, it was necessary to confirm this against the Irish metronomes, who have been mastering their rugby for months.

It is done and now the New Zealanders are completely revived in their pursuit of a fourth world title. They will be the top contenders in the first semi-final against Argentina, on Friday (9pm), in Saint-Denis.

I didn’t think they had what it takes in the attack to pull off a miracle.

Samedi, ils n’ont pas volé leur victoire même si ce match épique et indécis aurait pu basculer en faveur des Irlandais à plusieurs reprises. Il s’en est fallu de peu à la 72e minute quand Beuden Barrett s’est couché entre le ballon et l’en-but après un ballon porté du XV de Trèfle.

But the All Blacks held on during the never-ending Irish offensive. « I felt like we had control of this match and I didn’t think they had what it took in attack to pull off a miracle, » says New Zealand coach Ian Foster, « proud of our defense » which played 20 minutes with fewer players.

Fidèles à leur identité, les Irlandais ont tenté, comme face à l’Afrique du Sud (13-8) et l’Ecosse (36-14), de réciter leur rugby. Ils ne s’attendaient certainement pas à être pris à leur propre piège, dans les rucks.

After a disastrous start to the game, they found themselves trailing 13-0 due to two penalties from Mo’unga and Scott Barrett, and a converted try from Fainga’anuku (19). The brilliant Beauden Barrett, who initiated the play, showcased his skills with a self-kick.

Sexton sans solution

Sexton, on the other hand, was not as impressive and Ireland, being too predictable against a well-studied defense, faced a barrier. Aki, a rare player who can make a difference on his own, managed to find a way through (27).

Mais la créativité était définitivement du côté néo-zélandais. Illustrée par deux autres essais signés Savea, qui n’a pas hésité à apporter le surnombre sur l’aile (33), et Jordan, à la conclusion d’une prise d’initiative de Mo’unga (53).

Shaken on its foundations (six lost mauls or rucks, ten conceded turnovers), Ireland persisted in its strength; perhaps too much. It stayed in the game with two consecutive tries from penalty kicks, the first by Gibson Park (39), the second from a collapsed maul resulting in a penalty (64). New Zealand buckled under the pressure, received two yellow cards, but did not break.

« We were unable to finish the match. »

« I cannot reword »

Pour les Irlandais, le plafond de verre des quarts de finale résiste. « Quand la Nouvelle-Zélande a mis la pression, on a donné des points faciles, avec trois pénalités concédées en début de match », regrette leur sélectionneur Andy Farrell, qui salue la prestation des Néo-Zélandais.

« We fought against ourselves a little. We didn’t know how to finish the match, » says Sexton bitterly, who will retire at 38 years old. A new chapter begins for Ireland, who missed their chance to be crowned world champions with their golden generation.

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