Ireland 'A' coach Michael Bradley admitted that the New Zealand Maori were deserving winners of the sides' Churchill Cup clash on Saturday.
A clinical final quarter from the Maori saw them run out 27-6 winners in Santa Clara with late tries from winger Hosea Gear and replacement lock Thomas Waldrom confirming their passage through to next weekend's Churchill Cup final.
Ireland, despite creating a hatful of try-scoring chances, could only manage a penalty from Paddy Wallace and a sensational 45-metre drop goal from Robert Kearney.
After the Pool B decider, Bradley said: "We always knew it was going to be difficult as once the game opens up, the Maori are very dangerous. We wanted to keep it as controlled as possible, and we did that for 60 minutes. We created loads of opportunities and so I am just disappointed that we didn't take many of them.
"In the last 20 minutes, when we went down to 14 men and then 13 for a while, it was just too big an ask and the Maori scored a couple of well-deserved tries."
Ireland 'A' had Ulster flanker Roger Wilson sent off for a wreckless head-butt at a ruck on 70 minutes. Just moments later, tempers flared when Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip and Maori props Joe McDonnell and Mike Noble were yellow carded for fighting.
Wilson will learn his fate at a disciplinary hearing tomorrow in Edmonton, the host city for next Saturday's Churchill Cup finale - Ireland 'A' will line out against the England Saxons in the Plate final (kick-off 7.00pm Irish time).
Meanwhile, Maori assistant coach Stu Forster was quick to praise the Irish for a brave effort in the Californian sun.
He said: "It was a tough game and Ireland played really well. They played with a lot of pride and passion, and the defence was outstanding. It was a very physical game and we have a few boys with some bumps and bruises and the referee had a big influence on the game."