The curtain was brought down on Ireland U20s’ Junior World Championship journey at Eden Park yesterday, when a stunning second-half display helped hosts New Zealand emerge victorious in an eventful play-off.
However, although the winning margin might suggest that the southern hemisphere outfit had it all their own way in Auckland, they were made to work for their triumph against Mike Ruddock’s men.
Ireland led at half-time, 23-21, but the Baby Blacks responded with a 50th-minute James Tucker try, and following the sin-binning of full-back Cian Kelleher on the hour mark, Ireland’s chances of success started to fade.
NEW ZEALAND U20: D McKenzie; V Tavae-Aso, A Lienert-Brown, TJ Faiane, T Li; R Mo’unga, M Drummond; A Moli, H Faiva, T Koloamatangi; J Tucker, G Cridge; T Sanders, L Boshier, M Peni.
Replacements: K Harris for Sanders (25), T Cadwallader for Koloamatangi (ht), K Finau for Faiane (44), D Kaetau Havili for Lienert-Brown (59), J O’Reilly for Faiva (62), T Callander for Cridge (72), S Mellow for Moli (73), J Renton for Drummond (74).
IRELAND U20: C Kelleher; C Gaffney, G Ringrose, H Brewer, A Wootton; R Byrne, N McCarthy; P Dooley, D Donnellan, O Heffernan; D Moloney, R Molony; P Timmins, R Moloney, F Taggart.
Replacements: S Gardiner for D Moloney (ht), D Goggin for Wootton (52), R Burke for Heffernan (54), M Abbott for Donnellan (62), R Foley for McCarthy (65), C McKeon for Byrne (67), J Murphy for R Moloney (73), D Coulson for Dooley (74).
Referee: A Ruiz (France).