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NZ Maori come back for win

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Jun 2010     Getty Images

While Ireland lost, first five-eighths Jonathan Sexton produced an outstanding display that should see him rewarded with international duty in next weekend's Test in Australia at the expense of Ronan O'Gara. Sexton landed seven penalty goals and a conversion, missing only a vital last shot that might have levelled the scores.

But it was the Maori who added another international scalp to their impressive record to mark a superb match of constantly changing scores in which the Ireland side won plenty of friends for their attacking approach.

However, just as they had in their weekend game against the NZ Barbarians, the Maori kept their composure and came back when they had seemed headed for defeat.

However, it was from a quick throw-in taken on their line saw the ball moved wide to wing Sean Maitland and he carved his way downfield for 60m before the ruck was formed and the ball moved back to the left where replacement flanker Karl Lowe raced down the touchline to score to regain the lead which was extended by replacement first five-eighths Willie Ripia's conversion.

But in a feature of the night the Maori conceded a penalty, albeit unluckily at a ruck where they appeared to drive over the ball correctly, and Sexton landed his seventh penalty goal of the night.

Nine minutes from the end Ireland flanker Niall Ronan was penalised in front of his posts and Ripia landed the penalty goal but from the restart the Maori obstructed Ireland and Sexton again had the chance to level the score but missed his first kick of the night. Then after an impressive build-up driving at the line, Ireland left the ball unprotected at the base of a ruck and Lowe was onto it in a flash.

At the subsequent lineout Ireland was penalised and the pressure was eased.

Just as the Maori started the first half with a hiss and a roar, so did the Irish at the start of the second half when second five-eighths Paddy Wallace capitalised on a break by fullback and captain Geordan Murphy to score in the first minute.

It was the result of good work by No.8 Chris Henry who secured the ball at the re-start to set up the movement, which had its full reward when Sexton landed his seventh successive kick for goal.

Wallace came into his own in ball distribution and with some fine kicking for field position.

The Maori changed their game plan from their traditional running play as first five-eighths Stephen Brett started to use his boot to get in behind the Ireland defence and while he was replaced by Ripia, the ploy worked to effect.

The Maori team had started strongly, opening the scoring with a penalty goal to second five-eighths Luke McAlister in the third minute and then after five minutes wing Hosea Gear, who moments earlier had bumped off his opposite Shane Horgan with ease, was able to capitalise on a perfect backline entry at speed by fullback Robbie Robinson.

He powered into space and fed Gear who raced 22m untouched to score.

Ireland had a sortie into Maori territory that was shaping well only to lose the ball when first five-eighths Stephen Brett stole the ball and cleared downfield. From the resulting lineout, South African referee Mark Lawrence ruled a penalty. The Maori tapped it and moved it to the left where Robinson and Gear combined to give centre Dwayne Sweeney space and he too was unchallenged in scoring in the 14th minute with McAlister adding the conversion.

Ireland first five-eighths Jonathan Sexton landed his side's first points with a 17th minute penalty goal but McAlister immediately negated that with his second penalty goal a minute later.

Ireland began to find some attacking shape in the second quarter, with better handling, and great support play from Ronan especially. The Maori also were guilty of offside infringements which Sexton used to land penalty goals in the 26th, 28th and 32nd minutes.

Maori captain Liam Messam's mistake when firing a long pass, which was intercepted by Sexton, created yet another goal-scoring chance for Sexton who landed his fifth to bring the side right back into the game at 15-18 with four minutes of the first half remaining.

Scorers:

NZ Maori 31 (Hosea Gear, Dwayne Sweeney, Karl Lowe tries; Luke McAlister con, 3 pen; Willie Ripia con, pen) Ireland 28 (Paddy Wallace try; Jonathan Sexton con, 7pen). HT: 18-18