Geordan Murphy’s hopes of leading an Ireland XV to victory over the New Zealand Maori fell just short as his side went down 31-28 in Rotorua.
The 2005 British & Irish Lion had seen his side lose 19-13 five years ago and was looking for revenge, but replacement outside half Willie Repia put the boot into his hopes in the closing minutes to grab another landmark victory for the centenary celebrating Maoris.
Leinster outside half Jonny Sexton kicked 23 points with eight successive goals for the Irish, but then missed with a penalty that would have earned his side a draw. His kick drifted wide to the right of the posts and the Maoris added the Irish scalp to those of England, Argentina, Scotland, Fiji, and the 2005 British & Irish Lions captured since the game went professional.
"We gave ourselves a bit of a mountain to climb. Full credit to the boys, we stuck at it and grafted hard,” said Murphy.
“But the Maori played well and deserved their win. A lot of guys got run-outs and there's positives for us to review."
The home side raced into a 15-0 lead thanks to tries from wing Hosea Gear and centre Dwayne Sweeney and Luke McAlister added a penalty and conversion. That rocked the Irish XV and six successive penalties from the reliable Sexton boot tied up the scores at 18-18 at half-time.
Things improved further for the tourists when Paddy Wallace skipped over for a try and Sexton’s conversion made it 25-18. A long range McAlister penalty and a third home try, this time from flanker Karl Lowe, which Willie Repia converted regained the lead for the Maoris at 28-25, but Sexton’s seventh penalty levelled matters again.
Then came the dramatic finish as replacement outside half Repia kept his cool to land a late penalty to steal the lead, before Sexton crucially lost his 100% record as he tried to grab a share of the spoils.