Irish captain Johnny Sexton’s illustrious career came to an agonizing conclusion when three-time winners New Zealand defeated them 28–24 in the World Cup.
In a thrilling match on Saturday, the All Blacks outplayed Ireland 28-24, ending their hopes of winning their first world championship and setting up a meeting with Argentina in the final.
The loss put an end to Ireland’s streak of 17 straight Test triumphs and prevented Andy Farrell’s squad from reaching a semifinal for the first time in history.
The All Blacks battled the Six Nations winners for 20 minutes while playing with just 14 players, and in the final seconds as the top-ranked Irish looked for a winning try, they had to dig deep to defend their try line through 40 phases.
The Irish suffered their eighth quarterfinal defeat, their winning streak of 17 games came to an end, and flyhalf Sexton retired without receiving the glimmering award with which he had planned to cap his career.
“You’ve got to work hard for fairytale endings and we didn’t get it but that’s life,” 38-year-old Sexton said.
“We left no stone unturned, we ticked every box, trained the house down, and played pretty well tonight. But fair play to the All Blacks.”
Both teams hit hard in defense and wanted to use the ball in hand when they got it, making the match considerably different from Ireland’s historic victory against South Africa in the group stage.
The All Blacks were merciless when they got a whiff of the line to pull away on the scoreboard every time Andy Farrell’s team drew close, but Ireland’s variety in attack gave New Zealand difficulties all night.