Irish fall short in bid to beat Baby Blacks
Ireland 26 New Zealand 31: It could hardly been much closer in the end but as Ireland chew over another defeat to the Kiwis, they will seriously rue a yellow card on the stroke of half-time which turned this cracking Junior World Championship clash in favour of the Baby Blacks.
Ireland, with four Ulster players in their ranks, were going toe-to-toe with their illustrious opponents but then Welsh referee Ian Davies, who had been lenient on a battered New Zealand scrum, dished out a yellow card to Ireland try scorer Thomas Farrell.
The Baby Blacks, strong with ball in hand, did not need a further invitation and they ruthlessly pounced to turn a 14-11 interval lead into 26-11 by 48 minutes and then grabbed a fourth try.
Ireland managed to regroup and a brace of tries and a couple of kicks brought them within a try of the four-time champions but while the Kiwis had a man in the bin for the closing minutes, Ireland just could not conjure a fourth try to seal a first ever semi-final spot when a draw would have been enough to send them through.
Now Irish coach Mike Ruddock will need his men to regroup and try to match last year's best ever finish of fifth and ensure a more favourable draw next season.
The hard-working Dan Leavy got Ireland back in the game towards the end of the third quarter when he finished a good move involving Ulster's Rory Scholes.
It got better for Ireland with over ten minutes remaining when replacement prop Edward Byrne burrowed his way over. Rory Scannell's successful conversion left it 31-23 and then he landed his third penalty to leave just a try between them less then 10 minutes from the end.
But New Zealand just did enough to hang on and claim a semi-final spot.
Earlier, Ireland's Rory Scannell twice traded penalties with Simon Hickey to leave the sides deadlocked at 6-6 after half an hour but then gigantic Kiwi lock Patrick Tuipulotu scored in the left corner.
But the Irish response was excellent with Thomas Farrell pouncing on a loose pass from Hickey to sprint over.
The Kiwis regained the lead with another Hickey penalty but the key moment was the binning of Farrell for an infringement on scrum-half Tayler Adams just before the break.
New Zealand: J Webber; P Latu, J Emery, M Collins, L Visinia; S Hickey, T Adams; D Brighouse, E Faiva, B Wiggins; P Tuipulotu, C Vui; J Manihera, A Sevea, J Edwards.
Subs: S Mafileo for Wiggins (h-t), N Grogan for Brighouse (63), H May for Manihera (67), D Brighouse for Latu (71), S Scrafton for Vui (71).
Ireland: D Leader; A Byrne, T Farrell, R Scannell, R Scholes (Ulster); S Crosbie, L McGrath ; P Dooley , G McGuigan, C Taylor (Ulster); G Thornubury, J Donnan (Ulster); D Leavy, J van der Flier, C Joyce (Ulster). Subs: D Sweetnam for Byrne (34), B Byrne for McGuigan (49), E Byrne for Dooley (49), P Timmins for Thornbury (49), R Murphy for Joyce (67), M Roche for Crosbie (67), D Shanahan for McGrath (76), A Boland for Taylor (79).