Maori give Ireland a rude wake-up call
MATCH REPORT: New Zealand’s Maori team gave the touring Irish team a rude wake-up call in Hamilton on Wednesday.
The Maori beat Ireland 32-17 in the opening match of the tour – just days out from the first Test in Auckland, on Saturday.
While Ireland stayed in touch in the early exchanges, leading 10-8 on the half-hour mark, the Maori produced a three-try blitz in the last 10 minutes of the first half to lead 32-10 at the break.
Ireland was far more resolute in the second half and scored the only points after the break, but there are some major concerns for the tourists.
Top of that list is star prop Cian Healy, who was taken from the field on a mobile stretcher with what appears to be a serious knee injury 10 minutes from time.
* To recap the drama, CLICK HERE!
In a worrying sign three days out from the first Test of a three-match series against New Zealand, the Irish paid for ill-discipline and inaccuracy against a Maori outfit who scored all four of their tries in the first half.
Despite wet conditions at Waikato Stadium, the home team weren’t afraid to take risks and strung together some sweeping attacking moves, with two tries emanating from within their own half.
Flyhalf Josh Ioane kicked 12 points and was a constant menace with the ball in hand.
Ireland paid for a heavy penalty count against them in the opening half, with their problems exacerbated by an aimless kicking game and a back-pedalling scrum.
Coach Andy Farrell fielded an inexperienced, virtual second-string, side with most of his likely starters for the first Test at Auckland on Saturday watching on from the grandstand.
Farrell will be concerned about the health status of at least two of his players, after young back Jamie Hume and veteran prop Cian Healy were assisted from the field nursing leg injuries.
Ireland’s New Zealand-born captain Bundee Aki crossed to put his side 10-8 ahead in response to an early try from impressive Maori fullback Zarn Sullivan.
The home side then took control with three tries in the space of 10 minutes in the leadup to half-time, with wing Shaun Stevenson, scrumhalf Brad Weber and forward Cullen Grace all crossing.
A more even second half threw up just one try, when Ireland forward Gavin Coombes burrowed across.
The two teams will meet again in Wellington on July 12, midway between the second and third Tests.
For New Zealand Maori
Tries: Sullivan, Stevenson, Weber, Grace
Cons: Ioane 3
Pens: Ioane 2
Tries: Aki, Coombes
Cons: Frawley 2
New Zealand Maori: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Connor Garden-Bachop, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Cameron Suafoa, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Ollie Norris.
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 TK Howden, 21 TJ Perenara (co-captain), 22 Ruben Love, 23 Bailyn Sullivan.
Ireland: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 James Hume, 12 Bundee Aki (captain), 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ciaran Frawley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Michael Lowry.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Jordan Way Graham Cooper
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen