Māori All Blacks edge Moana Pasifika in historic encounter

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It was a celebration of two rugby cultures, but also a taster for what might be possible when Moana Pasifika become a more formal participant in the future and there could be few quibbles with the way they contributed to the occasion.


In the end, it was the greater continuity from the Māori All Blacks legacy that saw it provide the polish to take chances that allowed them to claim the win.


In the process, lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit, second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea and fullback Kaleb Trask showed their capabilities and potential for the Māori while halfback Folau Fakatava, wing Leicester Fainga'anuku and No8 Pita Gus Sowakula responded for the Pasifika combination.


Neither side could claim the ascendancy during the first half, although the Māori All Blacks looked more likely to score tries, and it wasn't until near the end of the half, following some hard running by Fainga'anuku and Sowakula, backed by Fakatava. But a Māori tackle lobbed the ball loose in a tackle close to the line and the chance was lost.


Issues for the Moana Pasifika lineout meant they were unable to secure enough of their own possession, the efforts of Selby-Rickit providing stolen ball for the Māori side.



Denied tries to No 8 Liam Messam (double movement) and Trask (stepped on the touchline), rewards came for the Māori All Blacks in the 22nd minute. It came from a strong lineout maul, which saw the ball released and from another midfield maul, it was moved and Trask was able to run back on an angle to take a long pass from halfback Bryn Hall.


He beat the tackles of Moana Pasifika captain and prop Michael Alaalatoa and Fakatava to run into open space to score, convert and wipe out the lead that Moana Pasifika had through second and 10th-minute penalty goals by first five-eighths Josh Ioane.


The second half immediately brought better results for the Māori, firstly from a rolling maul when captain and hooker Ash Dixon picked up yet another try from his busy scoring year and then from a lovely piece of set-up play by wing Shaun Stevenson.


Passing on to Tupaea, who ran down the touchline, kicked ahead, regathered the ball and flung a pass inside. The ball was dipping but Māori centre Billy Proctor caught it, maintained his balance and had the try in the 49th minute.


But that produced an immediate response from the Pasifika side when wing Salesi Rayasi made use of a kicked ball to forge ahead where he linked with Fakatava. From a ruck the ball was moved across field. From the midfield ruck, Fakatava was on hand to slip a pass to flanker Alamanda Motuga, who ran off his shoulder to get over the line for the try.

A string of penalties conceded by Moana Paskifa, including one from an outstanding scrum, where replacement props Ross Wright and Tamaiti Williams blew Moana Pasifika off the ball, allowed a try-scoring chance to emerge.


The maul was employed on each occasion but when eventually released Hall fed Tupaea and he took the ball to the line. From the ruck, Hall took play to the blindside where first five-eighths Otere Black flicked the ball through his hands to replacement flanker Mitch Karpik who scored in the 68th minute.


Moana Pasifika were not to be outdone at the scrum and in the 76th minute produced their own power display and almost scored from a pushover scrum. But when the ball was fed back, replacement halfback Dwayne Polataivao was around the blindside in a flash to score.


They attempted to push hard in the final moments, but the Māori secured a turnover and were able to run the clock down to claim the win.


Scorers: Māori All Blacks 28 (Kaleb Trask, Ash Dixon, Billy Proctor, Mitch Karpik tries; Trask 4 con) Moana Pasifika 21 (Alamanda Motuga, Dwayne Polataivao tries; Josh Ioane con, 3 pen). HT: 7-9


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