Maori All Blacks 26
It was scrappy, it was messy, it was ugly.
But the Maori All Blacks have at least finished their up and down northern tour with a victory on a cold, wet London night at the Twickenham Stoop.
In their second clash with Harlequins - following an 11-5 loss in 1926 on their long world tour - the Maori battled, the highlight being their four-try blitz in the space of 12 minutes in the first spell.
Against plucky but green opponents, including no less than five guest players, the Maori laboured, penalised heavily, losing prop Chris Eves to the sinbin late, frequently coughing up possession and unable to get their attacking flow going. It was reminiscent of the Munster clash, but Harlequins were far too inexperienced to capitalise. In fact, the home side offered little other than scrambling defence and ponderous yet effective lineout drives, from one of which yielded their sole try, to prop Dan Murphy. The scrums turned into a shemozzle, with constant collapses and resets.
After what the French would term un passage a vide for the opening 10 minutes, in which neither side did anything, fullback James Lowe scored the first of his double, giving him five tour tries from three outings. His form has been one of the few really pleasing aspects of the tour. He can thank some slick work from flanker Reed Prinsep and centre Matt Proctor, while for the second he found himself in space and pinned his ears back from 30m.
A long Proctor break then set up No 7 Shane Christie for a try. The finest team try was started by Lowe and finished by Sean Wainui, with several pairs of hands used, though there was a hint of a forward pass.
The floodgates creaked open, but they were closed again as Harlequins muscled up on defence and the Maori floated listlessly.
No 8 Akira Ioane was, strangely, awarded the man of the match. He made one or two characteristic charges, but also, like most of his teammates, too many errors to be fully satisfied with his outing.
"After the loss to Munster, we focused on regaining our feet and making improvements, but full credit to Harlequins, it was a hard-fought game," said Ioane, who will presumably have a short break before he rejoins the Blues for pre-season training.
The Maori's next match will have rather more intensity and hype, the June 17 clash with the Lions in Rotorua. There may be a very different look to the side, and they need to give a very different performance to what they showed here.
Maori All Blacks 26 (James Lowe 2, Shane Christie, Sean Wainui tries; Ihaia West 3 con) Harlequins 10 (Dan Murphy try; Tim Swiel con, pen) HT: 26-3