Ireland A’s brave show not enough

New Zealand Maori 27 Ireland A 6

The final scoreline paints a distorted picture, as the Maori were 15-6 up with only six minutes left on the clock. Had Paddy Wallace scored two penalties in the 49th and 60th minutes, the margin might have been narrower. However, ill-discipline crept in during the last 10 minutes when first Roger Wilson was red carded, and a minute later, Jamie Heaslip and two New Zealanders were yellow-carded. The Maori then ran in two late tries.

In the first five minutes Ireland put down a marker. First a rolling maul saw Jono Gibbes infringe but Ireland ran the penalty, though the Maori survived after a careless knock-on.

Ireland’s bright opening was then undone by a piece of New Zealand magic in the 11th minute. In a move that started inside the Maori 10m line, superb hands saw Paku touch down in the corner.

The Maori notched their second try through the Waikato Chiefs’ Tessam in the 31st minute. Taking a quick tap penalty on the Irish 22, the no 8 powered his way through for a superb individual try. Callum Bruce’s conversion made it 12-0.

Ireland then had two chances of tries from lineouts. First the effective Chris Keane sniped through a gap from a Trevor Hogan take, only to be hauled down within two yards of the try line. From another line-out, Roger Wilson was stopped on the blindside.

Heaslip was particularly prominent in injury time, winning two penalties, and the second was converted by Wallace to leave it 12-3 at the break.

Heaslip nearly forced his way in at the corner just after half-time and after the Maori cleared their lines, Kearney arrowed over a superb drop goal from outside the Maori 10- metre line. New Zealand replied with a Bruce penalty in the 46th minute.

Wallace had chances to narrow the margin but missed two penalty kicks. Then disaster struck in the 70th minute when Wilson was red-carded. All hell broke loose in the rising temperatures with Heaslip, Joe McDonnell and Mike Noble sent off.

The Maori took advantage of the open space in the remaining minutes with Gear and Waldrom scoring tries

Ireland coach Michael Bradley said: “It was a good performance but unfortunately it was just not good enough. We had spoken a lot beforehand about the way the Maoris would punish us if we coughed up possession. They are exceptional in broken play and can score from anywhere.

“We also knew we had to make the most of scoring chances. You just have to make them count but, again, we came up short. We managed to build some excellent phases in what was a tough encounter, but we just did not finish them off with a score.

“We came here to win the competition, but there is also a learning experience about the tournament. In that respect it is very useful and I think the players will have learnt a lot.”

IRELAND A: B Cunningham; S Keogh, K Lewis, D Quinlan, R Kearney; P Wallace, C Keane; R Hogan, J Fogarty, T Court, T Hogan, M McCullough, R Wilson, S Jennings (c), J Heaslip.

Replacements: N McMillan for Jennings (blood 8-21 and 23-34); T O’Leary for Keane (46); R McCormack for R Hogan (55); E Hickey for Cunningham (67); D Browne for T Hogan, B Blaney for Fogarty; D Fotzpatrick for Court (all 80).

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: S Paku; A Tahana, R Kahui, N Brew, H Gear; C Bruce, C Smylie; J McDonnell, S Linklater, D Manu, K Ormsby, P Tito, J Gibbes (c), T Latimer, L Messam.

Replacements: L Mahoney for Linklater (52); M Noble for Manu (60); M Berquist for Bruce (74); C Jane for Tahana and C Tamou for Smylie (76); J Paringatati for Tessam (77).

Referee: A Small (England).

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