Maori mauling ends hopes

IRELAND A’S hopes of making the Churchill Cup final were left in tatters as the New Zealand Maori ran in seven tries in a one-sided contest at Sandy Park.

Michael Bradley’s side made a positive start when Darren Cave touched down early on but once Keith Earls had added a second, it was virtually all one-way traffic.

The Maori, who will now face England in Saturday’s final at Twickenham, were lethal in open space and cut Ireland to ribbons with some dazzling rugby.

Hosea Gear and Ben May scored two tries while Shannon Paku, Callum Bruce Tamati Ellison also crossed, with the boot of Ellison doing the rest.

Cave added Ireland’s third try David Gannon touched down late on but the match was all but over by half-time.

The Irish looked to stamp their authority on the match right from the start and succeeded when Cave crossed with just two minutes on the clock.

The pack drove forward at a scrum and released to Johnny Sexton who picked out the onrushing Cave.

Tamati Ellison waved him through with a weak tackle and Sexton slotted the conversion, only for the Maori to respond swiftly with an Ellison penalty.

Superb vision from Paku then saw the Maori creep into the lead with the full-back chipping through Ireland’s backline and Gear was on hand to touch down.

Ireland hit back when Keith Earls slipped through several tackles and strolled over, with the sin-binning of May for an off-the-ball tackle further aiding their cause.

But they could not take advantage as Paku drove over from close range after Rua Tipoki had set up a dangerous field position for the Maori.

Ireland scrum-half Frank Murphy followed May into the sin-bin for straying offside to prevent a likely opposition score and then Ellison darted around several tackles to further stretch the Maori’s lead.

Gear added his second with a sublime finish that swept him between three Irish defenders and May powered his way through from the base of a ruck shortly after.

May galloped over for the Maori’s sixth try.

A show of the ball from Sexton allowed Cave to ghost through as Ireland produced an encouraging passage of play and substitute Gannon sprinted over to further slash the deficit.

But there was still time for Callum Bruce to ensure the Maori had the final word with a simple score.

NZ Maori scorers: Tries: Gear 2, Paku, Ellison, May 2, Bruce. Cons: Ellison 5, Sweeney. Pens: Ellison.

NZ MAORI: Paku, Gear, Sweeney, Tipoki, Tahana, Ellison, Smylie, West, de Malmanche, May, Ormsby, Triggs, MacDonald, Latimer, Smith.

Replacements: Bruce for Tipoki (65), Te Whare for Tahana (60), Rodley for Smylie (68), Tui for West (61), Mahoney for de Malmanche (61), Ross for Ormsby (68), Hoeata for Latimer (60).

Ireland A scorers: Tries: Cave 2, Earls, Gannon. Cons: Sexton.

IRELAND A: McCarron, McKenzie, Cave, Earls, J. Murphy, Sexton, F. Murphy, Hogan, Fogarty, Ross, Caldwell, Farley, O’Sullivan, O’Connor, Wilson, Fitzpatrick.

Replacements: Hearty for McCarron (50), Mallon for Earls (53), Keane for F. Murphy (74), Fitzpatrick for Hogan (14), Cronin for Fogarty (51), Gannon for Ross (64), Keogh for Fitzpatrick (50).

Referee: Andy MacPherson (SRFU).

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