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Ireland beaten by Maori All Blacks in New Zealand tour opener

Maori All Blacks 32 Ireland 17

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Dave Heffernan of Ireland is tackled by Brad Weber of Maori All Blacks at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dave Heffernan of Ireland is tackled by Brad Weber of Maori All Blacks at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dave Heffernan of Ireland is tackled by Brad Weber of Maori All Blacks at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland were well beaten on the first game of their summer tour with four first-half tries from the New Zealand Maori more than enough to secure a convincing victory over disjointed visitors.

Of more concern to Andy Farrell will be the injuries shipped to what was already an ailing squad.

Having had to use Niall Scannell virtually straight off the plane after Rob Herring's training ground injury, there will surely be more front-row cover urgently required after Cian Healy left the pitch on a cart with what looked like a knee problem.

Following James Hume and Jimmy O'Brien in being removed from the game injured, it was rotten luck for a player who had shored up a creaking set-piece in the second-half in what was his second stint in the game having been pressed into early action sooner than expected when covering for Jeremy Loughman through an early HIA.

Indeed, the man who could now be joining Iain Henderson on a plane home before the Test series even gets underway, played his part as the Irish pack earned a scrum penalty after just three minutes that was knocked over by Ciaran Frawley.

That lead would prove no sign of things to come though, and Josh Ioane soon levelled things up with a penalty of his own as the lack of cohesion defensively in this scratch Irish side was starting to show.

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Players from both sides square up to each other during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Players from both sides square up to each other during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Players from both sides square up to each other during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

On the back foot, the boot of Zarn Sullivan was dictating things with his 50:22 giving the Maori their first sniff of the line.

After some patient play beneath the posts, fittingly it was Sullivan who crashed over off Brad Weber's pass with almost a quarter of the game gone.

Ireland were almost over themselves only a moment later when, after a strong carry from Nick Timoney gained ground, the bounce of Jimmy O'Brien's poke through just evaded the grasp of his Leinster team-mate Jordan Larmour with the line at his mercy.

But it would be only a temporary reprieve for the hosts, with former Chiefs man Bundee Aki picking out a fantastic line back on his old stomping ground and using the damp conditions to slide across the whitewash having looked initially like he'd be stopped short.

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Frawley's conversion gave Ireland the lead and Ioane's errant shot from the tee kept them in front.

But discipline was proving something of an issue for the visitors and their fourth penalty concession of the first 25 minutes would be punished by the boot of Ioane.

With Sullivan again centrally involved, this time brilliantly claiming a high ball, a lightening quick Maori attack saw Ioane send Shaun Stevenson over in the corner and when the Kiwis drove Ireland off their own ball at the scrum there was a sense that this could quickly become a long evening for those hoping to use this as a way to catch the eye before the Tests.

It was directly off that turnover that scrum-half and co-captain Weber grabbed his side's third try of the game and, as half-time neared, the Maori led 25-10.

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Leni Apisai of the Maori All Blacks leads the haka during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Leni Apisai of the Maori All Blacks leads the haka during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Leni Apisai of the Maori All Blacks leads the haka during the match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Things would get worse before the turn. With the clock in the red, Stevenson was allowed far too much space to scythe through the Irish defensive line off another aimless kick and, despite Billy Harmon having to keep his cool off an errant pace, Cullen Grace was able to charge over for a fourth try of the score.

To start the second-half, Ireland enjoyed a rare spell of pressure in the opposition '22' but it came to nothing when Dave Heffernan made a mess of the tap and go five metres out.

Off the subsequent clearing kick to touch, Ireland kept banging on the door, with Timoney adjudged to have been held up over the line after a TMO review, but the period would ultimately yield no points.

Around the hour mark, the ill-discipline that had so plagued the Irish first-half reared its head again but they would belatedly score the first points of the second-half with 13 minutes remaining.

Gavin Coombes, who had a solid game in the eight jersey, was the man who emerged from the bottom of the pile with Barnes this time in a position to judge definitively on the grounding.

A bad day got worse for Ireland late on when, after Hume had already limped from the field, Healy was taken from the field seemingly in considerable distress.

His injury, as much as this performance on a night when few pressed their own claim to feature in the first Test, will give Andy Farrell quite the headache between now and Saturday.

Scorers - Maori All Blacks: Tries: Z. Sullivan, Stevenson, Weber, Grace. Cons: J. Ioane 3. Pens: J. Ioane 2. Ireland: Tries: Aki, Coombes. Cons: Frawley 2. Pens: Frawley.

Maori All Blacks: Z. Sullivan, Stevenson, B. Proctor, Poihipi, Garden-Bishop, J. Ioane, Weber, Norris, Eklund, Lomax, Dickson, Walker-Leawere, Suafoa, Harmon, Grace. Not Used: T Thompson, Williams, Ainsley, Selby-Rickit, Howden, Perenara, Love, B. Sullivan.

Ireland: O'Brien, Larmour, Hume, Aki, Earls, Frawley, Casey, Loughman, Heffernan, O'Toole, Treadwell, McCarthy, Prendergast, Timoney, Coombes. Replacements: Scannell for Heffernan (51), Baird for McCarthy (51), Conan for Coombes (78). Not Used: Healy, Bealham, Murray, Carbery, Lowry.

Ref: Wayne Barnes (RFU).


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