Ireland are out of the Rugby World Cup after falling to a 46-14 defeat at the hands of New Zealand, leaving retiring captain Rory Best struggling to hold back tears.
Joe Schmidt’s side had been hoping they could pull off another upset over the All Blacks, having notably overcome the might of the two-time defending champions in two of their last three encounters.
However, it was not to be and the Ireland players and fans alike were left with a disappointing end to their campaign in Japan.
“I would just like to thank this unbelievable Irish crowd - it started off with an incredible atmosphere and they were brilliant,” an emotional Best said, as he bowed out from the sport.
“But the All Blacks were fantastic tonight. We felt we prepared well all week, we felt we had a game plan, we felt we had enough in our armoury to beat them.
“They just started off out of the blocks hard at us, put us on the back foot and, like good sides do, they never let us get off that again.”
The All Blacks ruthlessly dismantled Ireland in their quarter-final encounter, running in seven tries and putting more than 40 points on the board.
They went through the gears, exploiting any mistakes by the men in green to secure progression in the tournament.
Aaron Smith scored twice and Beauden Barrett finished off a long-range try against the run of play, as the All Blacks took a commanding 22-0 lead over Ireland at half-time.
By full-time, despite the Irish grabbing a couple of consolation tries, New Zealand had cantered home by 46-14.
They now march on to a semi-final showdown with England in Tokyo, while Ireland are left looking ahead to the future under new coach Andy Farrell after a losing end to Schmidt’s reign.