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Maori All Blacks player ratings vs Ireland

By Sam Smith
Shaun Stevenson. (Photo by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

Ireland arrived in Hamilton hoping to score their first-ever win over the Maori All Blacks on a dewy night at Waikato Stadium.

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While neither side were able to assert to much dominance in the trying conditions in the first quarter of the match, the home side eventually started to build some ascendancy late in the first half, and entered the break with a strong 32-10 advantage.

The second half was a ding-dong affair, with both sides creating chances but struggling to capitalise. Ireland, in particular, threw themselves at the line time after time but couldn’t quite get the ball down on a multitude of occasions, only grabbing one try. That score gave the Irish the only points of the half, however, with the Maori All Blacks ultimately triumphing 32-17.

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The biggest challenge facing the All Blacks in their first test of 2022.
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The biggest challenge facing the All Blacks in their first test of 2022.

Who were the best performers for the Maori All Blacks in the victory?

1. Ollie Norris – 7.5/10
Stood up at scrum time and was always a willing carrier of the ball. Built from his strong form for the Chiefs and will have reinforced his place in the national pecking order. Off in 62nd minute.

2. Kurt Eklund – 6
Shook of his lineout yips from the Super Rugby Pacific final to hit his lineout jumpers with accuracy – bar one miscommunication. Busy on defence and was ambitious with his carries, although wasn’t always able to generate much in the way of go-forward.

3. Tyrel Lomax – 6
Generally strong at the set-piece – although was pinged at Ireland’s first feed of the scrum. Despite putting his hands up to carry, his ball security let him down on a couple of occasions. Case in point, dropped the ball inside the Maori 22, handing Ireland an excellent attacking opportunity – although they weren’t able to capitalise.

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4. Josh Dickson – 7.5
Useful at the lineout and made his presence known on defence. Made one crucial tackle when Irish centre James Hume almost slipped through the line with his side’s first bout of possession. Helped hold up one of many Irish raids to the tryline and grabbed one lineout steal. Off in 62nd minute.

5. Isaia Walker-Leawere – 7.5
A strong presence on both sides of the ball, playing his way into the national selection frame. Secured three great breakdown turnovers, one in the 32nd minute two in the second half but was penalised once for getting offside at the breakdown.

6. Cameron Suafoa – 5.5
Looked good roaming in the wider channels, throwing one audacious offload, but struggled to assert himself when the defence was pressing hard. A no-nonsense sort of selection but couldn’t quite generate the physical ascendency the Maori All Blacks were looking for.

 

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7. Billy Harmon – 7
Showed off his perhaps underrated carrying game throughout the match, either fighting his way through tackles or stepping around them altogether. Was guilty of biting in on an already marked defender when Ireland launched from a lineout in the 21st minute, giving Bundee Aki a clean run to the line.

8. Cullen Grace – 8
Forged ahead following his exceptional form at the end of the Super Rugby Pacific season. Hurtled into the Irish defence with every carry of the ball. Was on hand to throw his body over the line for the Maori All Blacks’ third try of the match, right before halftime. Teamed up with Dickson to snuff out an Ireland attack when they looked likely. An all-around excellent performance.

9. Brad Weber – 6
Quick to the breakdown, as has become expected of the persnickety halfback. Probably didn’t quite have the accuracy the Maori All BLacks would have liked from their captain but burrowed over for a try nonetheless. Off in 50th minute.

10. Josh Ioane – 6.5
Attacked the line regularly to set up opportunities for his teammates. Set up the Maori All Blacks’ second try with with an excellent midfield break before delivering the ball to Shaun Stevenson on the wing. Missed a regulation shot on goal in the 25th minute which would have handed his side the lead but made up for it with general attacking play. Kicking game was also relatively solid on a wet night, but also handed much of the responsibility to fullback Zarn Sullivan.

11. Connor Garden-Bachop – 7
Safe under the high ball and made some damaging runs with his few opportunities. Perhaps overshadowed by some of his teammates in the backline but generally went about his business with accuracy and impetus. A strong improvement from his work with the Highlanders throughout 2022.

12. Rameka Poihipi – 5
Operated as a distributor moreso than a playmaker, ensuring the ball was regularly fed out to the dangerous outside backs. Made his tackles but his hands let him down on occasion, and struggled to assert any dominance in the midfield.

13. Billy Proctor – 5.5
Got blindsided in the act of throwing his first pass, with the ball hitting the deck, but was generally reliable throughout the latter stages of the match. Got through his fair share of work off the ball – including on defence – but perhaps doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi that the Maori All Blacks needed in the midfield.

14. Shaun Stevenson – 7.5
Caused havoc for the Irish defence. Made a nice half-break down the righthand side with his first carry and then scored a well-taken try with an excellent run on the same flank. Immediately before halftime, set up a brilliant length of the field try to Grace (although the final pass out wide left much to be desired). Generally dominated with the ball in hand and looked sharp after a few weeks out of action. Off in 50th minute.

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15. Zarn Sullivan – 8
Pulled out all the stops with his kicking game, including making a pearler of a 50/22 at the end of the first quarter – and then scoring from the ensuing attacking foray. Was safe as houses under the high ball and looked to challenge Ireland on the counter-attack. A strong performance.

Reserves:

16. Tyrone Thompson – N/A
On in 70th minute.

17. Tamaiti Williams – 6.5
On in 62nd minute. Combined with Ruben Love, off all players, to deliver some aggressive defence inside Ireland’s 22 late in the piece to force an excellent turnover. Looked for work around the park.

18. Jermaine Ainsley – 4
On in ~57th minute. Struggled at the set-piece – the Maori scrum was significantly weaker with Tyrel Lomax off the field.

19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – N/A
On in 62nd minute. 1 lineout.

20. TK Howden – N/A
On in ~68th minute.

21. TJ Perenara – 6.5
On in 50th minute. Looked to kick early after joining the fray but soon realised that his backs had more to offer. Strong on defence, as is expected of the experience scrumhalf.

22. Ruben Love – N/A
On in 68th minute. Hit the posts with a straightforward penalty attempt and couldn’t nail a snap drop goal either.

23. Bailyn Sullivan – 7
On in 50th minute. Added impetus with every carry and could be worthy of a start in the second game with Ireland.

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