Nigel Owens error costs Ireland in Rugby World Cup QF clash with New Zealand
Nigel Owens missed a penalty that proved crucial in New Zealand's unlocking of the Ireland defence, according to former captain Paul O'Connell.
Ireland came into the quarter-finals having lost at this stage of the Rugby World Cup on their seven last appearances and never having made it to the semi-finals.
But having beaten the All Blacks twice in their last three meetings, the Irish were more hopeful of upsetting the odds.
However, all that optimism flooded away as they conceded 22 points in the first half, with scrum-half Aaron Smith opening the try-scoring with an opportunistic snipe.
Phases for days as New Zealand's patience pays off when Smith sees the gap and there is nobody at home for Ireland#RWC2019 #ITVRugby #NZLvsIRE pic.twitter.com/SSatO49IXI
- ITV Rugby (@ITVRugby) October 19, 2019
It was a fine finish, but O'Connell pointed at that it should have been disallowed for an illegal piece of ruck work by New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick.
'It's a great side clean!' joked ITV pundit O'Connell, pointing out that Retallick should have been penalised for entering the ruck from the side.
'Nigel Owens misses this. We were arguing if that was going to be important but [with Ireland 22-0 down at half-time] it doesn't look like it is now.
'But Retallick creates a gap for Aaron Smith to go into and he's been sensational. Any half chance he has got, he has managed to take it.'
Smith added another try soon after and Beauden Barrett a third while a solid defensive performance left Ireland with little to clutch onto at half-time.
But O'Connell, a veteran of 108 Tests for Ireland, was left begging his former team-mates to stop making their own lives harder - as well as hoping for the rub of the green from the referee.
'They've got to stop hurting themselves,' O'Connell added.
'New Zealand have been very sound tactically, pushing Ireland to the front at the line-out and forcing errors.
'It's going to be hard to get back into it but they've got to stop making errors.'
Sir Clive Woodward has criticised Nigel Owens over two big incidents in England's 39-10 win over Argentina. Owens rightly sent off Argentina's Tomas Lavanini for a high tackle on Owen Farrell in the 17th
Where I come from, in rural West Wales, rugby is part of who we are; your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, we are all born into the rugby family. I grew up in the small village of
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