All Blacks overwhelm Irish, reach World Cup semis vs England

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TOKYO — It’s one thing to beat the All Blacks in Chicago or Dublin. It’s an entirely different challenge taking them on in the Rugby World Cup, where they feel right at home.

Two-time defending champion New Zealand scored seven tries in a 46-14 demolition of Ireland on Saturday to move into a semifinal against England.

The result was virtually beyond doubt by halftime, when the All Blacks led 22-0, and the continuance of two opposing streaks seemed certain.

New Zealand hasn’t lost a World Cup game since a quarterfinal upset loss to France in 2007. Ireland is still yet to win a World Cup knockout game after eight attempts.

The Irish may never have felt more confident, after breaking their century-long drought with a win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 and winning again in Dublin last November.

They were ranked No. 1 coming into the tournament, but were never in the contest in the quarterfinal at Tokyo Stadium.

Aaron Smith crossed for a pair of tries from close range and Beauden Barrett finished off a long-range try against the run of play in the first half, and the All Blacks added four more tries in the second half by Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett.

Robbie Henshaw bombed a try in the 67th minute when he chased a perfectly placed grubber kick into the in-goal but knocked out, in an error that epitomized Ireland’s night to that point.

He made amends quickly after an attacking, midfield scrum, the ball coming to Henshaw on the right, before he stepped inside and dived over under the posts. The Ireland center raised his fist in celebration but it was really a consolation that reduced the margin at that point to 41-7.

New Zealand scored again before referee Nigel Owens awarded Ireland a penalty try in the 77th, for replacement forward Todd being in an offside position. Todd finished the match in the sin-bin, but New Zealand scored again despite being a man down.

Halves Smith and Richie Mo’unga were crucial in getting New Zealand off to a flyer.

Flyhalf Mo’unga opened the scoring with a penalty goal in the 6th and scrumhalf Smith darted over twice from close range in the 14th and 20th minutes. Smith’s second try followed an attacking raid involving a perfect pop pass from center Jack Goodhue to right winger Sevu Reece chiming in perfectly and sending it wide to Bridge, who was tackled within meters of the left corner post.

A piece of Mo’unga athleticism, when he leaped high to tap an attempted touch-finder from Ireland back into his in-goal to prevent a close-range lineout, kept New Zealand out of trouble before he contributed to his team’s third try.

Ireland was in prime attacking position but fumbled the ball after a mixup between Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney in the 32nd. Mo’unga hacked it forward off the ground for Barrett to chase, and the fullback toed it forward again before regathering as he dived over to score in the right corner. Mo’unga missed with the conversation attempt, his only blemish off the tee in the first half.

Hooker Codie Taylor was in the right place to score beside the posts in the 48th, strolling over after Ardie Savea and Kieran Read went close to scoring.

A Mo’unga cross-field kick in the 61st was well caught by an unmarked Reece in the right corner, but he was dragged down before Todd scored off the next phase to make it 34-0.

Ireland captain Rory Best’s international career finished soon after, when he was replaced in the 63rd minute and left the field with tears in his eyes, knowing there was no chance for his team to advance another week.

Instead it will be New Zealand playing England, which beat Australia 40-16 earlier Saturday in Oita.

England into RWC semis after record-tying win over Australia

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OITA, Japan — The strains of English rugby anthem “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” were already triumphantly swirling around Oita Stadium when Anthony Watson intercepted a long pass out wide and bounded over for England’s fourth try that clinched a record-tying win over Australia.

A 40-16 victory. A place in the Rugby World Cup semifinals. An unprecedented seven straight wins over its bitter rival.

For England and its jubilant fans, days do not get much better than this.

Making it worse for the Wallabies, an Australian masterminded the entire thing.

“At this moment,” said England coach Eddie Jones, when asked if he had any sympathy for his native country, “there’s not a lot of sympathy. No.”

A humiliating 33-13 loss to Australia at the 2015 World Cup contributed to England’s pool-stage exit in the tournament it was hosting and led to the hiring of Jones, who was tasked with getting the world’s wealthiest rugby union back on track.

This was the biggest game of his tenure and he nailed it.

Strong in defense and clinical in attack, England scored four tries to one and displayed the kind of mental resilience the team has lacked in recent years under Jones.

Australia, which led 3-0 after a dominant first 15 minutes, reduced the deficit to 17-16 with a converted try soon after halftime. England responded with 10 points in the next five minutes in a game-defining period.

“The boys were calm and in control,” England captain Owen Farrell said. “We said it wasn’t about what happened but what’s going to happen next.”

Next for England is a semifinal match against New Zealand or Ireland in Yokohama.

It’s less clear for the Australians and their coach, Michael Cheika.

“It’s a cruel world when you are being asked those questions two minutes after being knocked out of a World Cup,” Cheika said, responding to a question about his future.

Another reporter tried his luck, anyway. Australia’s fans deserve to know, Cheika was told.

“When the time comes, I’ll tell them,” Cheika said. “They don’t need to know today.”

The Wallabies failed to reach the semifinals for only the third time in nine editions of the World Cup, and each of their quarterfinal losses have come against England.

Indeed, the English are going through a period of unprecedented dominance over their old foes, having won their last seven matches against Australia since the 2015 World Cup.

This latest win equaled the record margin of victory — 24 points — which also came under Jones, a 30-6 win in 2017 at Twickenham.

It will go down as one of England’s best World Cup performances.

Winger Jonny May, making his 50th international appearance, scored two tries in a three-minute span midway through the first half to put the English 14-3 ahead. It was a lead they never lost despite it being trimmed to one point soon by Australia winger Marika Koroibete’s solo try from halfway in the 43rd minute.

May’s second score came following an interception by England center Henry Slade on his own 22. Slade, a hotly debated pick ahead of George Ford, raced 40 meters forward and then executed a perfect grubber kick to his left that May gathered on the run before finding the left corner.

England led 17-9 at halftime and found its lead trimmed to one point by Koroibete’s try. The response was emphatic.

Three minutes later, Farrell’s flat pass sent in Kyle Sinckler, who cut a great angle to split the defensive line, and a wide smile appeared on the prop’s face well before he had crossed the line.

“He’s like a runaway rhino,” a smiling Jones said.

Farrell converted and added a penalty soon after, restoring England’s lead to 11 points at 27-16.

Sinckler made just as big a contribution in defense, stripping the ball away when Australia was within two meters of the line after turning down an easy shot at goal.

That was realistically it for Australia, and Kurtley Beale’s long pass — intercepted by Watson for the fourth try in the 76th — was the end for the Wallabies in Japan.

England scored 23 unanswered points in the final 34 minutes. Farrell finished with 20 points, successful with all eight of his kicks.

“The challenge is there’s always a better samurai around the corner,” Jones said, looking ahead to the semis. “The semifinals are always the toughest game of the tournament because you have two teams desperate to get to the final.

“Our challenge now is to find ways to get better.”

Breeders’ Cup bans Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is banned from entering horses in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, where he was barred earlier this year.

Fred Hertrich, chairman of the Breeders’ Cup board, said Friday that it would honor Santa Anita’s house rule and not allow Hollendorfer to enter horses in the event Nov. 1-2.

The Stronach Group, whose track ownership includes Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in the San Francisco Bay area, ordered Hollendorfer off the grounds after six horses – four at Santa Anita and two at Golden Gate – died under his care earlier this year. Santa Anita had 30 horses die during its winter-spring meet.

At the time, TSG said the 73-year-old trainer was “no longer welcome to stable, race, or train his horses at any of our facilities.”

Hollendorfer’s attorney, Drew Couto, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Los Alamitos in Orange County welcomed Hollendorfer during its summer meet, with track owner Edward Allred saying, “We do not feel he should be a scapegoat for a problem which derives from a number of factors.”

Hollendorfer won a request for a temporary restraining order that allowed him to run horses at Del Mar during the summer.

But he lost a similar request in Los Angeles Superior Court to race at Santa Anita’s fall meet.