Munster commitment sinks Maori All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     12 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Munster fans were in full voice after a 67th minute try looked to seal the result, coming from a kick into the box by halfback Duncan Williams which allowed wing Ronan O'Mahony to run around the defence, after a hairline call that he wasn't ahead of the kicker, to drop on the ball as it rolled over the goal-line.

It was a difficult night for the sort of ball-handling style of play traditional to the Maori All Blacks and they conceded too many turnovers for Munster to ignore. And in a great week for Ireland rugby after the win over the All Blacks last week the spirit was with Munster and they never let up.

Munster's reputation against international sides, they beat the All Blacks in 1978, continues even with several of their Test players not involved due to duty with Ireland.

Munster opened the scoring with a 13th minute try to hooker Niall Scannell, coming from a strength they demonstrated from the outset - their driving lineout maul. It was representative of the fire and effort Munster threw into the game, bustling the Maori and tackling everything above grass level.

It took time for the Maori All Blacks to adjust and when they were able to achieve continuity play, which was not often the Maori were to play with confidence.

No.8 Akira Ioane and first five-eighths Otere Black were involved in two tries scored within two minutes in the middle stages of the first half. In the first Ioane ran hard down the blindside touchline before the ball was released to the open side with hooker Ash Dixon making ground in midfield. The ball was moved right again and Black dummied left and fed right to fullback Marty McKenzie running on an angle to create a chance for wing James Lowe to score.

Then from the re-start Munster fullback Andrew Conway put a long kick downfield that was taken by Ioane and he broke down the right flank at speed to link with right wing Ambrose Curtis. He passed inside to Black who dummied left and then returned the ball to Curtis who raced along the sideline for the try.

A turnover knock-on in the 30th minute proved costly as home flanker
Conor Oliver, who was busy all night, flicked the ball between his legs and it was moved wide, albeit untidily and when a kick ahead was made the Maori scrambled to cover the ball. The ball was on the ground and in kicking it ahead second five-eighths Rory Scannell was impeded by flanker Reed Prinseep with the ball over the goal-line and a penalty try was awarded with Prinseep sent to the sin-bin.

That had consequences in the 37th minute when a tap penalty in mid-field was muffed with a long pass going to ground and was toed ahead by Munster with wing Darren Sweetnam, the player who had put in the kick to the goal-line for the previous try, showing his speed when toeing the ball ahead to win the race for the try.

The Maori were unable to capitalise on Munster losing halfback Duncan Williams to the sin bin for a high tackle on Lowe, early in the second half, but moments earlier Munster blew a chance to extend their lead when No.8 Robin Copeland made a superb run into space but with the goal-line open outside him he held onto the ball instead of putting his wing in for the try.

Once Williams returned, Munster had another chance when O'Mahony got to the line but in grounding the ball short he was deemed not to have released the ball and a penalty was enough to allow the line to be cleared.

In conditions that tested skills for both teams Conway was outstanding for Munster fielding the ball, and kicking with effect which was in complete contrast to Marty McKenzie who had an uncomfortable night while the inside-back pairing of Williams and Keatley kept the ball in front of the forwards while the combined defensive play, and driving over the ball at the breakdown of the home side was outstanding.

Scorers: Munster 27 (Niall Scannell, penalty try, Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O'Mahony tries; Ian Keatley 2 con, pen) Maori All Blacks 14 (James Lowe, Ambrose Curtis tries; Otere Black 2 con). HT: 17-14