Munster boss Rassie Erasmus declared himself “incredibly proud” after watching his undermanned side beat the Maori All Blacks 27-14 at Thomond Park last night.
The Munster director of rugby was forced to do without nine internationals on Ireland duty as well as first-choice fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal as they faced a New Zealand representative side that had put 57 points on the United States in Chicago seven days previously.
Yet the men in red, including five Academy players, did their jersey proud in front of a sell-out 26,200 crowd as they outscored the tourists by four tries to two on a rainy night in Limerick.
“It’s an incredibly proud night,” Erasmus said. “To field five academy players tonight, I’m just proud of the performance and then the result, it was an absolute team effort. To achieve that performance and get a victory over such a prestigious touring side is just incredible.
“It’s nice to play that well against a quality team with really skilful players, to get the win was such a bonus. And it’s great to see how much depth we’re developing.”
Maori head coach Colin Cooper was left to rue a poor performance from his players and said his team had struggled to come to terms with Munster’s jackaling over the ball, something New Zealand players are no longer permitted to do, he said.
“It was a great game, a great experience and we’ll take a lot of learning from this going forward for our young players. I know Harlequins, who we play next week, will be having a good look at this.”
Maori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon said: “We didn’t really adapt quickly enough to the conditions. We played well in the last 20 minutes but we just left it too late to play catch-up.
“I take my hat off to Munster, they taught us how to play in those conditions and we’ll learn a lot of lessons from this. It’s great learning to come here and play in this type of atmosphere.”
Dixon described the tribute the Maori paid to Munster’s late head coach Anthony Foley before the game as “pretty special”.
Dixon had laid a black team jersey on the halfway line bearing the initials AF before they performed their own Haka, then the captain presented Foley’s young sons Tony and Dan with the jersey after the pre-match ritual, receiving some thunderous applause from the Thomond Park crowd.
“We were stoked by the atmosphere,” Dixon said. “We just wanted to show to the people of Ireland how much respect we had for what he did for rugby.”
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