As the M?ori All Blacks and Moana Pasifika laid down their challenges ahead of their clash in Hamilton, the passion that would be on display was clear to see.
An exhibition match with some of the country’s top talent on display, the match lived up to its billing as the M?ori All Blacks claimed a 28-21 win.
Both teams displayed their strength and speed, with some brilliant passages of running rugby, though for the most part execution was lacking in the more vital areas – as is often the case for teams that have had about a week together.
Moana Pasifika’s lineout was easy pickings for the M?ori All Blacks in the first half, with lock Maanaki Selby-Rickit having plenty of success disrupting the throw, while both sides were having their problems with handling and turnovers at the breakdown.
But despite possession often changing hands, both sides hand their chances to strike. For Moana Pasifika, their first opportunity came just moments after the opening kick-off.
After a short kick-off from first five-eighth Josh Ioane was gathered in by No 8 Pita-Gus Sowakula, jumping high above opposition midfielder Quinn Tupaea to collect it, he was taken to ground and Moana Pasifika were awarded a penalty at the ensuing breakdown. Ioane kicked the penalty goal and ensured a 3-0 lead within a minute.
While it might not have been what the fans expected to see in an exhibition match, Moana Pasifika were content to score in threes when they couldn’t break through, soon taking a 6-0 lead.
The M?ori All Blacks took a different approach, turning down penalties well in kicking range in favour for attacking the tryline through lineout drives.
Veteran flanker Liam Messam almost got the M?ori All Blacks on the board with a charge from close range, but was deemed to have made a second movement to get the ball down. They didn’t have to wait too much longer for their first points, however, with fullback Kaleb Trask cutting straight through the Moana Pasifika defensive line from about 30m out, converting his own try to give his side a 7-6 lead.
But after another Ioane penalty, Moana Pasifika held a slim 9-7 lead at the break.
The first-ever clash between the Maori All Blacks and Moana Pasifika promised fireworks from the kick-off, but the pre-match challenges have set the tone for the match ahead. #MABvMPA #MaoriAllBlacks #MoanaPasifika https://t.co/7h0afipuKq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 5, 2020
The lead lasted just a couple of minutes after play got back underway, with M?ori All Blacks hooker Ash Dixon scoring a try from a lineout drive. It ended up being the spark the M?ori All Blacks needed, with the attack flourishing in the second half.
Midfielder Billy Proctor scored on the back of a terrific kick-and-collect play from Tupaea, and reserve flanker Mitchell Karpik added another late in the piece.
The two were broken up by a try to Moana Pasifika openside Alamanda Motuga, and a late try to Dwayne Polataivao gave the side a chance of trying to secure a draw, but the M?ori All Blacks held on for a deserved seven-point win.
Maori All Blacks 28 (Tries to Kaleb Trask, Ash Dixon, Billy Proctor and Mitchell Karpik; 4 conversions to Trask)
Moana Pasifika 21 (Tries to Alamanda Motunga and Dwayne Polataivao; conversion and 3 penalties to Josh Ioane)
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