There was heartbreak for Ireland as they came back from a fifteen point deficit but succumbed to a late penalty to lose 31-28 against the New Zealand Maori in Rotorua on Friday morning…

The hosts got off to dream start when Luke McAlister kicked his side into a 2nd minute 3-0 lead and four minutes later Ireland were reeling when the impressive Hosea Gear capitalised on an impressive attacking move to score in the corner.

McAlister’s conversion effort fell wide of the sticks, but the former Sale Shark would make amends with his second successful kick when he converted Dwayne Sweeney’s 13th minute try which was instigated again by Gear.

Jonathan Sexton, a towering presence throughout the contest, reduced the deficit to 12 points with a 17th minute penalty after scrum-half Aaron Smith was adjudged to have been offside and though McAlister kicked a 19th minute penalty, it was all Ireland in the game’s second quarter and by half-time they had levelled the scores thanks to five successive Sexton penalties on 26, 30, 33, 36 and 39 minutes.

With the scores tied at 18-18 Ireland sensed their chance to gain the lead and they did just that through one time Leinster player Paddy Wallace who crossed the line after good work by skipper Geordan Murphy.

Sexton’s conversion made it 25-18 for the visitors. With Rhys Ruddock and Chris Henry making inroads up front and Eoin Reddan linking well at half-back with Sexton, Ireland were the dominant side during this period, but a McAlister penalty on 49 minutes halted the progress and signalled a shift in Ireland’s advances.

The centre missed two penalties on 51 and 58 minutes and eventually the home side’s dominance was rewarded when Hawke’s Bay substitute Karl Lowe capitalised on some poor defence to touch down in the corner.

Willie Ripia took over the kicking duties and struck the conversion to give the hosts a 28-25 lead. Sexton’s seventh successful penalty after 68 minutes once again drew the scores level at 28-28 as Ireland pushed for the winning score, but as the tension mounted Ireland infringed at a ruck and Ripia kicked what proved to be the winning score four minutes later.

Sexton had the opportunity to again draw Ireland level in the 73rd minute, but his penalty fell wide of the sticks in what proved to be the only blemish in an otherwise flawless display by the St. Mary’s man. Clinical in attack and resolute in defence, it was a characteristically strong effort by the Leinster out-half. 

Despite the disappointment of the result, all in all it was a positive showing by Ireland ahead of next weekend’s test in Brisbane against Australia, with a number of players putting their hands up for selection.

MAORI SCORERS: H. Gear, D. Sweeney, K. Lowe (1 try each), L. McAlister (3 penalties, 1 conversion), W. Ripia (1 penalty, 1 conversion)

IRELAND SCORERS: P. Wallace (1 try), J. Sexton (7 penalties, 1 conversion)


15: Robbie Robinson
14: Sean Maitland
13: Dwayne Sweeney
12: Luke McAlister
11: Hosea Gear
10: Stephen Brett
9: Aaron Smith

1: Bronson Murray
2: Corey Flynn
3: Ben Afeaki
4: Hayden Triggs
5: Jarrad Hoeata
6: Liam Messam CAPTAIN
7: Tanerau Latimer
8: Colin Bourke


16: Dane Coles
17: Clint Newlands
18: Romana Graham
19: Karl Lowe
20: Ruki Tipuna
21: Willie Ripia
22: Jackson Willison


15: Geordan Murphy CAPTAIN
14: Shane Horgan (Rob Kearney, 72)
13: Gavin Duffy
12: Paddy Wallace
11: Johne Murphy (Rob Kearney, 54-56 blood)
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Eoin Reddan
(Peter Stringer, 62)

1: Marcus Horan
2: John Fogarty (Damien Varley, 60)
3: Tom Court (John Hayes, half time)
4: Ed O’Donoghue
5: Dan Tuohy (Donncha O’Callaghan, 64-66 blood & 77)
6: Rhys Ruddock
7: Niall Ronan
8: Chris Henry (David Wallace, 64)