The Maori All Blacks may have taken two steps forward with their thrashing of the USA Eagles last weekend, but they took at least three backwards after falling to Munster in Limerick.

This was an historic first clash between the two teams, but aside from two well-worked first half tries to the wings, the Maori were made to look second-rate on a windy, wet night against opponents who were far from full strength and including some green academy players, though minus Kiwi No 10 Tyler Bleyendaal.

It caps a remarkable week for Irish rugby, after the national side beat the All Blacks in Chicago. But more than that, this victory was the third time in 2016 that an Ireland team have out-thought a New Zealand outfit with their tactics. In June, of course, the Ireland Under 20s beat their New Zealand counterparts in the wet. In 2014 the Ireland beat the Black Ferns at the Women's Rugby World Cup. Before that, the famous 12-0 1978 Munster win over the All Blacks was all they had to hang their hat on.

One should not have been surprised that Munster would be tactically sound, as their director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, the former Springbok loose forward, who has taken more of the reins after the tragic death last month of Anthony Foley, is known as an astute operator.


He had Munster putting up high balls into the first half gale. The Maori looked very uncertain under the bombs, as it is challenging catching balls that are blowing away from you. It was fraught with risk, but Munster pulled it off and actually led 17-14 at the half.

In the second spell, the wind died, but, fearful of the Maori counter-attack, they kicked little ball away, often resorting to pick and goes, which frustrated the Maori ambition.

The Maori made far too may handling errors in contact, pushing passes, and were clearly rattled by the line speed and demonic tackling of the men from Munster. It was reminiscent of their last defeat, 34-17 to the NZ Barbarians on a wet night at Eden Park last year. In fact, the loss raises further questions, after the travails of the Under 20s in June, of how New Zealand teams cope with inclement conditions in foreign climes.

"I'm just over the moon. We have a helluva team here and a helluva culture," said Munster No 8 and man of the match Robin Copeland, whose work-rate was impressive, though he did butcher one try. It was an inspirational display from a player wearing the same jersey worn countless times by former coach Foley, a Munster legend.

The Maori ramped up the emotion of the night, even before kickoff, when captain Ash Dixon laid out a Maori jersey with the initials AF on it as tribute to Foley, before a rousing haka rendition.

That galvanised the 26,000-strong Thomond Park crowd and indeed, the Munster team, into action. The victory was a triumph for flanker Tommy O'Donnell, who was skippering Munster for the first time.

Former Chiefs and Taranaki hooker Rhys Marshall came off the bench for Munster, while Bay of Plenty halfback Te Aihe Toma, a new signing, was an unused replacement.

No 8 Akira Ioane was the best of the mediocre Maori, his industriousness not matched by others, while wing James Lowe, who finished a sweet try, and No 10 Otere Black, were the other standouts.

The Maori must now regroup for their final tour match, on Thursday morning (NZT) against Nick Evans' Harlequins club in London.

Munster 27 (N. Scannell, D. Sweetnam, R. O'Mahony tries, penalty try; I. Keatley 2 cons, pen) Maori All Blacks 14 (J. Lowe, A. Curtis tries; O. Black 2 cons) HT: 17-14