Ireland bounced back from a first midweek tour loss to the Maori All Blacks with a hard-fought victory in Wellington on Tuesday.
The Irish led 17-5 at half time thanks to tries from flank Nick Timoney and right wing Jordan Larmour, as well as the boot of Ciaran Frawley, with the Maori registering a touchdown via No 14 Shaun Stevenson.
The hosts staged a second-half fightback by outscoring the visitors 19-13, but the visitors dug deep to clinch a 30-24 win at The Cake Tin.
Ireland produced a much-improved performance, headlined by two tries to Larmour, in a display that would’ve pleased coach Andy Farrell as he looked to develop experience throughout his squad ahead of the World Cup next year.
Memories of Ireland’s dismal first week on tour when they lost to the Maori and the All Blacks faded into the background as the tourists completed wins over both sides in the past three days.
In a match that produced four yellow cards and a penalty try, the largely second-string Ireland – with only three players in the run-on side having played more than 10 Tests – looked a more cohesive unit than they did in their first match.
The opening try to Larmour came from inspired thinking by captain Keith Earls, who caught the Maori napping, and the second to Timoney started from a lineout steal at the other end of the field.
Defensively, Ireland were quick to shut down attacks by the home side, forcing multiple errors by a side keen to play a running game despite greasy conditions after a day of heavy rain. They also benefited from a smart kicking game by halves Craig Casey and Frawley.
Following an early try to Stevenson, smart improvisation by Earls put Ireland in front in the seventh minute. As the Maori forwards slowly made their way to a lineout, Earls threw the ball in quickly to Larmour, who raced to score under the posts and leaving Frawley with a simple conversion.
Frawley was on target again 20 minutes later with a handy penalty. From the restart, when after repeated offences Cian Prendergast was yellow-carded, the Maori preference to kick for the corner rather than take a shot at goal inadvertently turned into more points for Ireland.
The tourists stole the lineout and made their way to the other end of the field where Timoney drove over for the try, Frawley again converted and the hosts had Ollie Norris sent to the sin bin.
Another Frawley penalty a minute into the second half increased Ireland’s lead to 20-5 before the Maori managed to score for the second time with the penalty try with Larmour also yellow-carded for an early tackle.
As the game loosened up, the final quarter produced four tries. Gavin Coombes extended the Irish lead when he drove over for a try from close range, and the Maori replied when Reuben Love started and finished an 80-metre move.
Larmour touched down in the corner to complete Ireland’s scoring before Maori scrumhalf Brad Weber scored on the stroke of full time.
The Ireland tour ends with the deciding third Test in Wellington on Saturday.
© Agence France-Presse