Rugby Union: All Black power proves too much for Irish boys

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The Independent Online
IRELAND'S ATTEMPT to retain their World Junior Championship title ended in a 21-15 defeat to New Zealand at the Brewery Field, Bridgend, last night.

The Kiwis, taking part in the 32-nation tournament for the first time, clinched a place in Sunday's final with a commanding display of disciplined and dynamic rugby.

The young All Blacks carried too much forward fire power and pace behind, though the Irish refused to buckle and kept plugging away to the end.

But the well-marshalled New Zealand defence restricted Ireland to penalty goals for all their points, fly-half Jeremy Staunton landing five to keep his side in contention.

By contrast, New Zealand threatened with the ball in hand on numerous occasions, with their wings, Junior Muliaina and Gerrard Fasaualu, and full-back Shannon Paku, devastating runners from deep.

Ireland never recovered from a bad start when Fasaualu scored after 70 seconds before an Irish player had time to lay a hand on the ball. It was a horrendous start for Des Dillon and his team but they bounced back to give the New Zealanders a run for their money.

Staunton began the salvage operation with a 42-metre penalty goal after 14 minutes and then the fly-half pulled off a try-saving tackle on Muliaina just when the wing threatened to go all away.

Staunton was wide to the left with another penalty opportunity but a powerful midfield run by centre James Downey created the position from which Staunton made no mistake at the next time of asking to put Ireland in front for the one and only time - and it lasted barely two minutes.

A superb break by fly-half Riki Flutey tore the Irish defence apart and Paku was up in the line to send Fasaualu hurtling over for his second try.

Kiwi back-chat cost them dearly when the 10 metres they needlessly conceded turned a penalty into Staunton's range and the No 10 was on target from 40 metres only for Flutey to respond in kind in injury time. A break by Staunton was the early second-half tonic Ireland needed and the fly-half then landed a straightforward penalty to close the gap to a single point.

However, a collapsed scrum cost the Irish three more points from a Flutey penalty goal and they effectively finished it as a contest when Paku went over for their third try.

There was still time for Staunton to land his fifth penalty and for Mark Meenan to launch a thrilling counter-attack in the final minutes but New Zealand's discipline held for them to reach the final at the first time of asking.