Reuters - Fri, 18 Jun 10:53:00 2010
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who had been flawless in kicking seven penalties and a conversion, had an opportunity to level the match with five minutes remaining but pushed his penalty attempt wide to the right for his only miss of the game.
The match is part of a series to commemorate the centenary of the formation of the first official Maori rugby team in New Zealand. They will also play England in Napier next Wednesday.
"It's awesome, the boys really dug in for 80 minutes and showed their character towards the end there," Maori captain Liam Messam said.
"It's 100 years and I think we celebrated it the right way."
The Maori jumped to an early 15-0 lead as winger Hosea Gear and centre Dwayne Sweeney both scored tries, while Luke McAlister slotted a conversion and penalty.
The visitors, however, gradually clawed back into the game by patiently building phases that drew a stream of penalties as Sexton slotted all six of his shots at goal to ensure the sides went into the break locked at 18-18.
Ireland continued to build on their momentum with centre Paddy Wallace scoring a try straight from the restart, with Sexton converting to give Ireland a 25-18 lead.
The Maori managed to stem the flow with McAlister kicking a long-range penalty to cut the deficit to three points, befor replacement flanker Karl Lowe finished off a sweeping move that was started by winger Sean Maitland from inside his own half.
Willie Ripia converted Lowe's try before Sexton slotted his seventh penalty to tie the game at 28-28 with 15 minutes left.
Ripia gave the Maori the lead before Sexton missed his relatively easy shot at goal and the home side held out.
"We gave ourselves a real mountain to climb," Ireland captain Geordan Murphy said.
"There are some positives we can take but also plenty to work on.
"Overall it's a disappointment... we wanted to win."