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Ireland A's Tigers fall to NZ Maori

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It will be the final that many had predicted as the reigning Barclays Churchill Cup champions New Zealand Maori beat Ireland A to earn the right to face England Saxons at Twickenham on Saturday (kick-off 4.30pm).

The Maori beat an Ireland A side which included Leicester's own Johne and Frank Murphy by 50 points to 22 at Exeter's Sandy Park to reach their third Churchill Cup Final.

Despite watching an impressive new version of the haka, Ireland were not intimidated and started well with Darren Cave scoring the first try of the match. New Zealand soon came back and a try by Hosea Gear, which followed a penalty by Tamati Ellison, put the Maori 10-7 in front, before Johnny Sexton scored Ireland's second try of the night. 

It was a feisty match with a total of three sin binnings - New Zealand's Ben May earning the first 20 minutes into the opening half. As the half wore on, the Maori seemed to settle and took control, soon showing the attacking flair that the near 5,000-strong crowd were hoping to see from the Kiwis.

A penalty by Barclays Man of the Match Ellison saw the Maori regain the lead after 35 minutes and a subsequent yellow card for Frank Murphy was followed by a converted try from the same New Zealand player, giving the Maori a 24-12 lead at the break.

In the second half, the Maori pulled away from their Irish counterparts, with a second try for Gear and two in succession for May before Ireland could recover. It took Ireland 35 minutes to score their first points of the second half but they still showed grit and determination despite the superior performance by the Maori. Cave scored his second try of the match and replacement David Gannon also got on the score sheet for Ireland, before New Zealand's Calam Bruce secured victory with a late score.

Speaking after the match, Tamati Ellison was pleased with his team's performance. "We were confident going into the match but they played well. We stayed composed despite not leading at the start but we definitely need to work on our defence before Saturday. We were a little bit eager tonight and need to trust our line more. This team has definitely got the belief that we can retain our trophy and beat England at Twickenham."

New Zealand Maori coach Shane Howarth added, "There was a little bit of complacency by our guys, added with some new combinations and that affected us at the beginning but we were confident once we got the ball.  It is a pleasure to coach this side when there is so much flair that you just can't contain. Our scrums were a bit scratchy but our line outs functioned well.  Twickenham is the home of England Rugby and we know that England will be really up for the final on Saturday. We just hope it is a great day and a good game."

Mike Bradley, Coach of Ireland A said, "It was a good start for us but when you face a side like the Maori you have to be careful about giving them space. They kept the ball alive and we were chasing the game. They won it soon after half time if we are honest.  Anyone who wants to beat them can't afford to let the game get loose, and they make very few mistakes. England need to look at every opportunity that is on offer. From our point of view, a lot of our players have not played at this kind of level before so it is great. It is a lesson learned tonight and gives them something to aspire to in terms of physical fitness and ball handling skills. 

"We face Scotland A in the Plate Final and it will be a different kind of game for us from tonight as the players are used to playing each other in the Magners League so we will both be very familiar to each other. We are looking forward to Twickenham and enjoying the occasion".

New Zealand Maori:

Shannon Paku, Hosea Gear, Dwayne Sweeney, Rua Tipoki (captain), Anthony Tahana, Tamati Ellison, Chris Smiley, Craig West, Aled de Malamanche, Ben May, Kristian Ormsby, Hayden Triggs, Angus MacDonald, Tanerau Latimer, Warren Smith

Replacements: Luke Mahoney, Hoani Tui, Isaac Ross, Jared Hoeata, James Rodley, Calam Bruce, Pehi Te Whare

Tries: Gear (2), Paku, Ellison, May (2), Bruce

Penalties: Ellison (2)

Conversions: Ellison (3), Sweeney

Ireland A:

Ross McCarron, Paul McKenzie, Darren Cave, Keith Earls, Johne Murphy, Johnny Sexton, Frank Murphy, Ray Hogan, John Fogarty captain, Michael Ross, Ryan Caldwell, Andrew Farley, John O'Sullivan, Johnny O'Connor, Roger Wilson

Reps: Sean Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, David Gannon, Stephen Keogh, Chris Keane, Seamus Mallon, John Hearty

Tries: Cave (2), Sexton, Gannon

Conversion: Sexton

Attendance: 4679

Referee: Andy McPherson (SRU)

Barclays Churchill Cup Finals are confirmed as:

11.30am Barclays Churchill Cup Bowl Final - USA vs Canada

1.45pm Barclays Churchill Cup Plate Final - Scotland A vs Ireland A

4.30pm Barclays Churchill Cup Final - England Saxons vs New Zealand Maori

Tickets to watch all three matches are on sale on 0870 902 0000 from £20 (£10 for juniors).