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Maori ABs tie Fijian series

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Maori All Blacks hit back in Rotorua to square series with Fiji

The Maori All Blacks have stayed true to their message. After a disappointing performance in their loss to Fiji in Suva a week ago, they vowed to show an improved effort when they met again in Rotorua this weekend, particularly on the defensive end (writes Christopher Reive for the New Zealand Herald).

This time around, defence was an effective asset to the side as they claimed a 26-17 win to split the two-game series. Tries from Rob Thompson, Alex Nankivell, Sean Wainui and Isaia Walker-Leawere did the damage for the hosts, while Otere Black added nine points off the tee.

There was plenty to like in the Maori All Blacks’ performance, led by a much-improved showing from Black in the No10 jersey. After a disappointing outing in Suva, he turned things around in a big way to guide the side to victory. Black made great decisions all match whether it was exiting his own territory, organising the offence or kicking into space. 

He made a number of pin-point kicks to the corners to trap Fiji deep in their own half which the Maori All Blacks were able to capitalise on.

With 11 changes to the side that beat the Maori All Blacks in Suva, Fiji have shown they could be a team to watch come the World Cup later in the year. After playing at full-back last time out, young utility Alivereti Veitokani was again impressive deputising at first five-eighth. 

Despite a couple of handling errors – one which led to the Nankivell try – Veitokani’s speed in the running game was again put to full use while he showed a more than an adequate kicking game to boot. In just his second Test match, the young Fijian will be one to watch going forward.

Fiji opened the scoring through hooker Veremalua Vugakoto, who planted the ball over the line in the corner after an off-load between the legs a teammate. The Maori All Blacks hit back not long after when Sean Wainui was the benefit of an overlap out wide to score his third try in two games.

The sides stayed locked at seven-all heading into the half-time break, but the Maori All Blacks came out firing in the second half. 

Thompson pushed the side ahead with a try under the posts just three minutes into the second period, and when his midfield partner Nankivell fell on a loose ball in the in-goal area following a handling error from Veitokani, the match looked close to being sewn up for the hosts as the visitors had only mustered a penalty goal in the second half. 

Walker-Leawere pushed the gap to 16 after a strong run saw him cross the chalk, albeit with a hint of a double movement, and with time winding down the M?ori All Blacks didn’t look like being chased down.

Fiji scored a consolation try through Mosese Voka, but they were unable to sweep the series as the Maori All Blacks closed out the win.

Maori All Blacks 26 (Rob Thompson, Alex Nankivell, Sean Wainui, Isaia Walker-Leawere tries; Otere Black 3 cons, pen) Fiji 17 (Mosese Voka, Veremalua Vugakoto tries; Alivereti Veitokani 2 cons, pen)

– New Zealand Herald 

WATCH: The compelling RugbyPass documentary Nadolo explores the life and career of Fijian rugby legend Nemani Nadolo

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Maori All Blacks hit back in Rotorua to square series with Fiji