Maori All Blacks 24
A barnstorming performance from Gavin Coombes and a two-try salvo from Jordan Larmour inspired Ireland to a famous win over the Maori All Blacks at the Sky Stadium at Wellington on Tuesday morning.
After losing the first clash between these sides by 32-17 two weeks ago in Hamilton, Ireland were extremely eager to set the record straight, while they were also looking to pile the pressure on the All Black camp for the deciding Test at the same venue on Saturday.
After Ireland had knocked on directly from the kick off the Maoris went straight for the jugular, crossing for the first try in the third minute.
The score originated from an attacking lineout just 5m from the Irish line, and when the hosts went left off first phase possession TJ Perenara, Alex Nankivell and Josh Ioane combined, with deft handling in the greasy conditions, to send Shaun Stevenson away to score in the left corner.
It was all the Maoris for the first seven minutes until some lightning quick thinking from captain Keith Earls saw him take a quick lineout to the onrushing Jordan Larmour, who was through the Maori cover before they knew it to score under the posts, to get Ireland up and running.
Ireland then soaked up more Maori pressure before getting their hands on the ball and going through the phases, and when they won a penalty 20m from the Maori posts Ciaran Frawley slotted the kick to make it 5-10.
Cian Prendergast was almost immediately sinbinned for not retreating 10m from a Maori penalty, but Ireland won the resultant 5m lineout and cleared long, winning possession deep in New Zealand territory.
Maori loose head prop Ollie Norris was then yellow carded for coming in at the side of a maul and from the resultant attacking lineout Ireland struck.
After a few initial probes Gavin Coombes lunged for the line, and although the Munster number eight was short, he had sucked in four or five defenders, leaving openside Nick Timoney the simple task of diving over in the 33rd minute to push Ireland’s lead out to 5-17 at half time.
Straight after half time Timoney won a breakdown penalty 35m from the Maori posts which Frawley kicked to push Ireland into a crucial three score lead.
The Maoris were then awarded a penalty try in the 45th minute when Larmour was adjudged to have tackled winger Connor Garden-Bachop early, with the line within his sights, and was duly brandished a yellow card and forced to sit out ten minutes.
Ireland managed the ten minutes that they were down to 14 extremely well and when Timoney won another penalty with a trademark jackal Ireland were back to fifteen.
The game became extremely error strewn at this juncture with Ireland’s lineout malfunctioning on a number of occasions but the Maoris were guilty of numerous handling and kicking errors, which undermined their attacking intentions.
Ireland wrapped up the win with a stereotypical Gavin Coombes try in the 67th minute when he blasted through three would-be tacklers from close range to score in the left corner.
The Maori’s scored an excellent try in the 71st minute when Ruben Love sliced through the Irish midfield and played a one-two with number eight Cullen Grace to score, but crucially Josh Ioane missed the conversion to ensure that Ireland remained more than one score ahead.
Maori winger Shaun Stevenson was sinbinned for a deliberate knock on in the 76th minute and Ireland capped their brilliant night with a try in the right corner when centre Stuart McCloskey fizzed a superb pass to Larmour to walk it in in the corner.
Love sliced through the Irish defence again with the last play of the game to put Brad Weber under the posts, but it was merely a consolation try for the Maori’s, as Ireland had won convincingly.
Scorers for the Maoris: Ioane (1 con), Stevenson, Love, Weber (1 try each), Penalty try.
Ireland: Frawley (2 pens, 2 cons), Larmour (2 tries), Timoney, Coombes (1 try each).
Maori All Blacks: Moorby; Stevenson, Sullivan, Nankivell, Garden-Bachop; Ioane, Perenara (co-capt); Norris, Eklund, Lomax; Selby-Rickit, Walker-Leawere; Prinsep, Harmon, Grace.
Subs: Delany for Prinsep (15), Weber (co-capt) for Perenara (51), Apisai, Renata and Love for Norris, Lomax and Moorby (56), Williams, Howden and Proctor for Eklund, Selby-Rickit and Nankivell (63).
Ireland: Lowry; Larmour, Earls (captain), McCloskey, O'Brien; Frawley, Casey; Loughman, Scannell, O’Toole, McCarthy, Treadwell, Prendergast, Timoney, Coombes.
Subs: Baird for Treadwell (56), Byrne for Loughman (61), Carbery for Lowry (63), Bent for O’Toole (76).
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU).