Irish eyes smiling after league victory

They didn't travel halfway around the world just to get beaten. No, they came here to play and play they did.

Irish eyes were smiling as the sun shone down on a picture perfect Puketawhero Park for Sunday's invitational match.

The touring Irish Wolfhounds rugby league side couldn't believe it was almost winter.

"It's like our summer, amazing," said Irish hooker Liam Walsh after the game.

The weather wasn't the only thing the Irish were happy about. The 42-16 scoreline was worth the wait.

"We just wanted to get on the park and have a good go. There is only so much training you can do," said their elated captain Stevie Gibbons.

The Wolfhounds' first game in their New Zealand tour did not start well when they dropped the ball from the kick off.

The rest of their day went more or less according to plan.

The Wolfhounds' ex-pat Bartercard cup coach Tony Benson was happy to get out on the pitch and test his side.

"We didn't really know how we would go or how the opposition would front up.

"We did the things we practised and the boys put their hands up today. They were really keen," he told the Daily Post.

Bay of Plenty and Ngongotaha coach Joe Taute used the match as a development game for some of the Bay's up and coming stars.

"I had a few young guys mixed into the team. It was an opportunity to give them a taste of Bay football."

Seneo Paulino, 18, and Tai Pelesasa, 17, didn't let their coach down and returned solid performances.

"We only had one training run so we did pretty well. These guys are a touring side and were always going to be hard to beat," said Taute.

The Bay were undone by a more professional team who seemed to enjoy the physical side of the game. Mohawk-wearing Irish prop Wayne Kerr played like a man possessed, putting in some bone-crunching hits.

Their versatile hooker Liam Walsh made it hard for the Bay boys with some raking kicks that kept them on the back foot all afternoon. He also kicked seven from nine from the spot.

The Bay had a sniff of victory when they touched down with 15 minutes to go, making the score 26-14.

Minimal training time showed through when the Bay got close to the line, lacking ideas when it counted. But they never lacked courage and the score line didn't really reflect the closeness of the match.

* Result: Irish Wolfhounds 42 (Kelly 2, Ashe, Gibbons, Griffith, Gordon, McNamara tries; Walsh 2 pens, 5 cons) Bay of Plenty Invitational XIII 14 (Pelesasa, Gardiner, Thompson tries; Thompson 2 cons)

Results to date -

Game 1. Bay Of Plenty. Won 42 - 16 Game 2. Northland Marist. Lost 22 - 24

Irish Wolf Hounds Tour Result - Game 3

Auckland Marist Invitation vs Irish Wolf Hounds , 2.30pm Murray Halberg Park 2 June, Auckland

Auckland Marist Invitation 34 R.McCammish, A. Kitchener, I, Feki, S. Likiliki, D. Siave C. Seu tries R.Ioane 5 goals

Irish Wolf Hounds 6 E.Grifath try L. Walsh goal H/Time 22 - Nil Auckland Marist Invitation