Despite showing plenty of fight, Nigel Carolan’s Wolfpuppies were outclassed and overpowered at times in the contest in Viadana as their only score came from the boot of UCD outside-half Joey Carbery on 16 minutes.
New Zealand hit back two minutes later with well-taken try after a snipe from scrum-half scrum half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi was just short.
Two phases later, the try came from two of New Zealand rugby’s rising stars when Hurricanes outside-half Otere Black – who arrived at the tournament late after helping his franchise finish top of the New Zealand Conference in the absence of injured All Black Beauden Barrett – threw a long, overhead pass wide left to powerful Blues winger Tevita Li, who surged over in the left corner.
Black missed the difficult conversion, but added penalties on the half-hour mark and with the final kick of the opening half to give the Baby Blacks an 11-3 lead at the break.
A two-try blitz in the opening 10 minutes of the second half from Li, who burst through the Irish defence after patient attacking play in the 22 and flanker Blake Gibson, who drove over the line from close range after the Kiwis destroyed the Irish pack against the head on a scrum five – both scores converted by Black gave New Zealand an unassailable 22-point lead.
While the scoreboard suggests a convincing win, it was a far from easy for Scott Robertson’s side, who showed plenty of attacking intent, but were often too loose for their own good as was the case in their second pool match against Argentina.
The inevitable emptying of the benches in the searing northern Italy heat saw the game lose most of its rhythm, but Carolan will be happy that his players stemmed the tide, managed to create a few chances which went begging, and prevented New Zealand from getting a fourth try.
New Zealand now face France in the semi-finals, with defending champions England – who qualified from Pool A as best runners-up – taking on number one seeds South Africa in a repeat of last year’s thrilling final.
As Pool C runners-up, Ireland progress to the fifth-place play-offs as sixth seeds, where they will face Wales, who finished third in Pool A, in Viadana on Monday.
Should Ireland secure a win, they will take on the winners of Australia vs Scotland in the fifth-place play-off on match day five, with the two losers contesting the seventh-place play-off.
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