NZ Maori beat Australia A to take Pacific Nation Cup

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NZPA     07 Jul 2008     Getty Images

New Zealand Maori prevailed 21-18 in a dramatic match at Aussie Stadium, with Thomas Waldrom scoring the decisive try with four minutes remaining before some unnecessary ill-discipline handed Mark Gerrard a lifeline to draw the match and give Australia A the silverware on points differential.

Only required to kick the ball long to wind down the clock, the visitors were penalised at a breakdown 45m out and watched nervously as the former Wallaby's kick slipped under the crossbar.

The narrow miss sparked New Zealand celebrations after Australia A had dominated for vast tracts of an error-ridden match.

New Zealand Maori only discovered their attacking groove in the dying stages of both halves but their perseverance paid dividends each time to cancel out classy tries by league convert Timana Tahu.

The former Kangaroos back opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he bypassed a wonky defensive alignment to outflank Tamati Ellison and Callum Bruce.

Daniel Halangahu added the conversion before the match degenerated as neither side were able to build phases despite perfect underfoot conditions.

New Zealand Maori were undermined by a shambolic lineout early on with four consecutive throws going awry in the first quarter.

An early glitch provided the platform for Tahu's opening try from a 5m scrum but Australia A could not profit again from their spoiling tactics.

Ironically, a botched feed from the home side paved the way for New Zealand Maori to claw their way back into the match when from a turnover prop Jacob Ellison burrowed close to the line before Piri Weepu flicked a pass for Tanerau Latimer to spin over by the goalposts.

Three minutes later a wide-ranging Liam Messam sliced past Tahu and wrong-footed Brett Sheehan to give New Zealand Maori a flattering 14-7 halftime advantage.

The interval broke the visitors' momentum and when Gerrard landed penalties in the 43rd and 47th minutes Australia A regained the ascendancy.

Tahu's second try on the hour, after he left Bruce and Tamati Ellison in his wake, might have proved decisive until Ellison atoned for his defensive lapses by setting up Waldrom's close range burst.

Earlier, Weepu hit the upright with a 65th minute penalty while a promising and rare attacking raid ended with Australia A muscling the only tighthead of the match.

New Zealand Maori were able to set up camp again and when Ellison left Morgan Turinui grasping, Wellington loose forward Waldrom was on hand to slide over the tryline.