Despite a 17-0 defeat, there were plenty of positives for coach Allen Clarke to take from Ireland’s second game in the Under 20s World Cup against New Zealand.
It’s three years since New Zealand scored as few as 17 points in an Under-20 or Under-21 international and Clarke's men, missing the services of suspended captain Peter O'Mahony, put in an excellent display in front of a vocal 4,447-strong crowd in Nagoya.
There were some big collisions right from the off and Ireland almost sprung a first minute surprise when a kick over the top of a ruck from Healy had Michael Keating chasing towards the try-line, but New Zealand full-back Rob Robinson was alive to the danger.
New Zealand took the lead on 12 minutes, Cruden splitting the posts from inside the 22 after O'Hara had been ruled offside, however, thanks to some heroic defending this was all the ‘Baby Blacks’ had to show for their first half efforts.
The crucial moment came after the interval when the Irish lost centre Spence to the sin-bin. Moments before the yellow card, centre Winston Stanley barrelled over for the opening try.
Robinson kicked the conversion and the loss of Spence to the sin-bin proved decisive with New Zealand drawing in defenders to the breakdown before spreading the ball wide for replacement Shaun Treeby to touch down within a minute of the yellow card.
The conversion from Robinson made it 17-0 and despite Ireland upping the pressure on New Zealand in the last 10 minutes, with Murray and Burke igniting some fine back-line moves, they could not find a way through the defence.