French Baabaas too good for Maori All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     11 Nov 2017     Getty Images

The game had a controversial end with the Maori All Blacks, down 8-19, awarded a penalty try for a high tackle on replacement hooker Liam Polwart. From a lineout close to the French line, Polwart tore down the sideline from a move which saw replacement flanker Jordan Manihera run around the front to take the ball and feed the hooker.

Polwart was halted just short of the line by prop Antoine Tichet and after a lengthy consultation with the TMO referee Shuhei Kubo of Japan changed his mind from a simple penalty to a penalty try, and yellow card for Tichet, saying if Polwart hadn't been tackled high he would have scored the try.

That got the Maori back to 15-19 down and with the French losing their best prop with nine minutes remaining the opportunity was their but in spite of getting deep into French territory, the home defensive spirit was too strong.

Indiscipline that marred the Maori performance almost from the outset of the game continued to let them down and it was the French who finished well on top and deserving winners. They contained the running threat of the Maori backs and there were few opportunities to extend the French defence.

Light rain caused handling problems for both sides throughout the game, but the French coped best, especially in the first half when the Maori All Blacks didn't help themselves with too many missed tackles eight of them to one by the French Barbarians. This was in spite of a slight dominance of possession and position for the Maori. Turnovers were high for both sides but the French were best organised to take advantage.

It typified their first half performance when, after their best break of the half created from a delayed pass by first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop to fullback Charlie Ngatai who was brought down just short of the line.

But two late penalties after the half-time hooter failed to yield the try the Maori needed, the ball being swatted away by the French at the second to end the half.

The French had plenty of speed on show with halfback Baptiste Couilloud making an early break from their own 22m which saw 18-year-old first five-eighths Romain N'tamack, the son of former international Emile, take play into the Maori 22m area.

Then after a break by N'tamack, flanker Mahamadi Diaby had a chance to show his speed before being dragged down just short of the Maori goal-line.

The sides exchanged penalty goals but it was after being pinned close to their own line that the French Barbarians pounced. The home side lost their throw to the lineout but in attempting to clear the ball, Garden-Bachop had his kick charged down by lock Alexandre Flanquart and flanker Baptiste Chouzenol won the race to the touch down.

The second half started better with a concentrated effort pinning the French Barbarians in their own 22m area and when they had a lineout close to their line lock Jackson Hemopo, who was one of the best performers for the Maori again, contested the ball which was tidied by Tom Franklin. Hemopo took the ball up in a strong surge and replacement centre Tei Walden made ground and from the ruck halfback Brad Weber threw a long pass to wing Sean Wainui who scored.

But from the restart the French Barbarian tight forwards demonstrated their off-loading skills to keep the ball moving as they advanced. When No.8 Akira Ioane was caught offside, the French kicked to the corner and launched a drive which resulted in hooker Adrien Pelissie regaining the lead.

The Maori lost replacement Manihera to a yellow card after 55 minutes for a charge on Diaby who was standing on the Maori side of the ruck but the referee ruled it was after he had blown his whistle, although Maori captain and hooker Ash Dixon contested that view.

Mistakes under the increasing pressure imposed by the home side frustrated the Maori and when N'tamack kicked a second penalty goal they were out to a 16-8 lead with the final quarter to play.

Scorers: French Barbarians 19 ( Baptiste Chouzenoux, Adrien Pelissie tries; Thomas Ramos pen; Romain N'tamack 2 pen) Maori All Blacks 15 (Sean Wainui, penalty try, tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop pen). HT: 8-3