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Improving Ireland Miss Out In Rotorua

Improving Ireland Miss Out In Rotorua

Jonathan Sexton kicked 23 points and Paddy Wallace grabbed a well-taken try but the concession of three tries proved costly for Ireland as New Zealand Maori edged them out at Rotorua International Stadium.

SUMMER TOUR MATCH: Friday, June 18

NEW ZEALAND MAORI 31 IRELAND XV 28, Rotorua International Stadium

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Scorers: New Zealand Maori: Tries: Hosea Gear, Dwayne Sweeney, Karl Lowe; Cons: Luke McAlister, Willie Ripia; Pens: Luke McAlister 3, Willie Ripia
Ireland XV: Try: Paddy Wallace; Con: Jonathan Sexton; Pens: Jonathan Sexton 7

An Irish team showing 15 changes to the one that lost heavily to New Zealand put in a lively display that saw them come up just short in the first ever senior match between Ireland and New Zealand Maori.

First-time captain Geordan Murphy helped spark a determined comeback from this much-changed side, with Jonathan Sexton’s assured place-kicking cancelling out an early 15-point lead for the hosts and drawing Ireland level at 18-18 by half-time.

Ireland’s defence disappointingly gave way as winger Hosea Gear and centre Dwayne Sweeney broke through for Maori tries, inside the opening 13 minutes.

All Black Luke McAlister added the extras to Sweeney’s effort and kicked two penalties to leave Ireland chasing the game.

But inspired by Murphy and Sexton amongst others, the tourists rose to the occasion. Newcomer Rhys Ruddock looked right at home as the Irish forwards began to win turnover ball and force the issue in the loose.

The Maori side’s discipline let them down and they were fortunate not to have a player sin-binned as Sexton planted a succession of penalties through the uprights – after 28, 31, 33, 36 and 40 minutes.

The out-half was razor sharp from place-kicks and Ireland’s rousing comeback was just the answer to a slick first quarter from Jamie Joseph’s side.

After a memorable version of the haka in the second match of their centenary series, the Maori punished an Irish offside with McAlister converting a third minute penalty.

Ireland were solid at set piece time but were starved of possession and territory in the opening stages, and some unforced errors allowed the Maori build their lead. McAlister passed for full-back Robbie Robinson to hit the attacking line at pace and he drew a couple of defenders before sending Gear over in the left corner.

McAlister’s missed conversion was followed by the first decent spell for Ireland who had skipper Murphy, centres Paddy Wallace and Gavin Duffy and number 8 Chris Henry working hard with ball in hand.

Sexton shipped a heavy tackle as the Maori used their power and pace to maintain control of the game, and they went further ahead in the 13th minute. Solid tackles from Ruddock and Shane Horgan mattered little as the ball was ferried on by Gear to Sweeney who nipped past Geordan Murphy and Ed O’Donoghue to score, to the left of the posts.

McAlister converted for a 15-3 buffer before exchanging penalties with Sexton, Ireland’s opening score coming after good surges from Henry, Tom Court and Ruddock.

Half breaks from Wallace and Geordan Murphy showed Ireland’s potential and the tourists turned the screw in the second quarter.

Maori winger Sean Maitland was well covered by Johne Murphy as he chased a kick that dribbled over the end line, and Ireland earned a penalty shortly afterwards which Sexton thumped over from the halfway line.

Sexton found a good touch near the Maori 22 and pressure at lineout time saw Henry win turnover ball. A subsequent offside from Stephen Brett saw his opposite number bisect the uprights once again.

Ireland were turning the tide, and Duffy and Niall Ronan posed problems for the Maori in midfield before prop Bronson Murray was whistled up for another offside which resulted in Sexton’s fourth successful penalty.

Two more followed before half-time, with Sexton intercepting a loose Maori pass before Horgan, Henry and John Fogarty added some pep to the Irish counter attack. Tanerau Latimer infringed, the penalty was converted and then with the last kick of the half, Sexton added another three-pointer following good work from Wallace, Duffy and Ronan.

John Hayes was introduced for the second half and Ireland’s revival continued with a try just 25 seconds after the resumption.

Henry rumbled towards the Maori 22, setting up a quick ruck, and a classy raid down the left from Geordan Murphy saw him make the incision and pass for the supporting Wallace to collect and crash over under pressure from two defenders.

Sexton nailed the conversion for a 25-18 advantage and the momentum was clearly with Declan Kidney’s men. Ireland were displaying greater control of the ball, as evidenced by a quickly-taken lineout from Johne Murphy and some impressive clearing out from O’Donoghue, Ruddock and Marcus Horan.

An offside decision against Ronan allowed McAlister cut the gap to four points. The Irish flanker, who put in a tireless display, was penalised again four minutes later, but McAlister’s kick was off target.

Ronan won possession off the restart for Ireland, and Wallace had a pass ruled forward as he sprung Geordan Murphy through a midfield gap and the Ulsterman was rock solid when bringing McAlister to ground in the next phase.

But the exchanges were evening up and McAlister was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt right on the hour mark. Both benches were emptied for a final quarter push, and the Maori replacements were to prove more influential.

A couple of plays went against Ireland – Wallace kicked out on the full, and Ruddock knocked on as he tried to find the onrushing Ronan – and they paid the price in the 63rd minute when replacement flanker Karl Lowe finished off the Maori’s third try.

The New Zealanders took a quick lineout deep in their 22 before unleashing Maitland for a brilliant individual run, covering almost 70 metres, and with the Irish defence stretched on the left, the Maori had the numbers to put Lowe over for a vital score.

Replacement out-half Willie Ripia added the conversion for a 28-25 scoreline, only for Sexton to have the game squared up, just three minutes later, as the Maori fell foul of referee Mark Lawrence at ruck time again.

That set up a mouth-watering final quarter-of-an-hour, and the Maori regained the lead through the boot of Ripia who fired over what turned out to be the match-winning penalty. In the build-up, an angled run from Maori captain Liam Messam had given his side some much-needed go-forward ball.

Messam and his back row colleague Colin Bourke were penalised for obstruction as Ireland chased Sexton’s restart kick, however the Irish number 10 flighted his penalty attempt away to the right of the posts.

Replacements Peter Stringer, David Wallace and Damien Varley helped engineer a late attack and Ireland looked poised to score as the forwards muscled their way to five metres out. But the ball squirted free off the back of a close-in ruck and try scorer Lower was alert enough to gather the ball and save his side.

An infringement by replacement lock Donncha O’Callaghan at a lineout in the final minutes allowed the Maori ruck their way to victory. They maintained possession at the breakdown and Ripia rifled the ball to touch after the 80 minutes were up.

The result was not Ireland’s – the Maori had another scalp to add to previous wins over England, the British & Irish Lions, Scotland, Argentina and Fiji – but Kidney’s charges, including four uncapped players, had put in a performance that will give the squad plenty of positives to take into next week’s Test against Australia.

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – New Zealand Maori penalty: Luke McAlister – 3-0; 5 mins – New Zealand Maori try: Hosea Gear – 8-0; conversion: missed by Luke McAlister – 8-0; 13 mins – New Zealand Maori try: Dwayne Sweeney – 13-0; conversion: Luke McAlister – 15-0; 17 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 15-3; 20 mins – New Zealand Maori penalty: Luke McAlister – 18-3; 28 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 18-6; 31 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 18-9; 33 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 18-12; 36 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 18-15; 40 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 18-18; Half-time – New Zealand Maori 18 Ireland 18; 41 mins – Ireland try: Paddy Wallace – 18-23; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 18-25; 48 mins – New Zealand Maori penalty: Luke McAlister – 21-25; 51 mins – New Zealand Maori penalty: missed by Luke McAlister – 21-25; 59 mins – New Zealand penalty: missed by Luke McAlister – 21-25; 63 mins – New Zealand Maori try: Karl Lowe – 26-25; conversion: Willie Ripia – 28-25; 68 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 28-28; 73 mins – New Zealand Maori penalty: Willie Ripia – 31-28; 75 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 31-28; Full-time – New Zealand Maori 31 Ireland 28

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: Robbie Robinson; Sean Maitland, Dwayne Sweeney, Luke McAlister, Hosea Gear; Stephen Brett, Aaron Smith; Bronson Murray, Corey Flynn, Ben Afeaki, Hayden Triggs, Jarrad Hoeata, Liam Messam (capt), Tanerau Latimer, Colin Bourke.

Replacements used: Dane Coles for Flynn, Karl Lowe for Latimer (both 54 mins), Ruki Tipuna for Smith (59), Willie Ripia for Brett (62), Romana Graham for Hoeata (65), Clint Newlands for Murray (71). Not used: Jackson Willison.

IRELAND XV: Geordan Murphy (capt); Shane Horgan, Gavin Duffy, Paddy Wallace, Johne Murphy; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Marcus Horan, John Fogarty, Tom Court, Ed O’Donoghue, Dan Tuohy, Rhys Ruddock, Niall Ronan, Chris Henry.

Replacements used: John Hayes for Court (half-time), Rob Kearney for J Murphy (54-55, blood sub), Damien Varley for Fogarty (60), Peter Stringer for Reddan (62), David Wallace for Henry, Donncha O’Callaghan for Tuohy (both 65), Rob Kearney for Horgan (73). Not used: Ronan O’Gara.

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)