Māori All Blacks 38
Manu Samoa 21
Clayton McMillan's Māori All Blacks were made to work much harder than many expected to secure their two-match sweep over Manu Samoa.
After a 35-10 win in Wellington last week, the Māori All Blacks battled for large parts of their second crack against Samoa before pulling away late thanks to two penalty tries and yellow cards at Mt Smart Stadium.
Defensively, Samoa were resilient and committed for long periods and they regularly challenged the breakdown to stifle the Māori intent to play at pace.
The Māori were disjointed in their execution, blowing several try-scoring chances, with McMillan's frustration in the coaching box clear by the end of the match.
Eventually the Māori ran in six-tries-to-three but it was not a convincing performance, only pulling away in the final quarter when replacement Genesis Mamea Lemalu copped Samoa's second yellow card and penalty try for leading with the shoulder to deny Jonah Lowe a hat-trick.
Samoa made most of the play in the final 10 minutes, too, and they were rewarded with replacement Kalolo Tuiloma burrowing his way over to seal their spirited efforts.
Chiefs second-five Alex Nankivell was the standout figure for the Māori, making several breaks and looking lethal every time he touched the ball before departing with 15 minutes remaining after sustaining a blow to the head while slipping into a tackle.
Otere Black, in his final match for the Māori before leaving for Japan later this year, left the field after injuring his knee in the 47th minute which injected Josh Ioane from fullback to first-five where he helped spark the attack.
After a scrappy start where Manu Samoa challenged well, three first-half tries from the Māori All Blacks established a comfortable 19-7 halftime lead.
The score did not reflect a competitive first spell with Samoa bringing urgency and aggression to contesting the breakdown which disrupted the Māori All Blacks' ability to build phases.
The Māori All Blacks eventually claimed the opening try and there was no surprise Ash Dixon emerged from the back of a rolling maul after crashing over, having done likewise countless times for the Highlanders.
Samoa did not drop their heads, though, hitting back immediately after first-five Rodney Iona broke the line – going straight through Māori halfback Sam Nock – and delivering a perfect pass to send Hawke's Bay wing Neria Fomai over in the left corner.
On the back of a dominant scrum in the first spell at least, with Crusaders prop Tamaiti Williams impressing from tighthead, the Māori gradually wore Samoa down. Lowe finished a Billy Proctor offload – the Hurricanes centre forming a slick combination with direct-running Nankivell.
Samoa were then dealt a telling double blow with blindside Samuel Slade sent to the bin for collapsing a maul destined to score, and referee Mike Fraser awarding a penalty try.
Straight after the break the Māori failed to gather the kickoff and were immediately under the pump. After a series of strong carries from Samoa openside Alamanda Motuga, who was also a strong presence at the breakdown, fullback Tomasi Alosio latched onto an inside ball from halfback Auvasa Falealii to bring the underdogs back into the match.
Strikes from Sean Wainui, Lowe's double and a second penalty try ultimately killed off hopes of an unlikely comeback but Samoa should be proud of their efforts that leave them well placed to contest a two-match World Cup qualification series against Tonga in the coming weeks.
Māori All Blacks 38 (Jonah Lowe 2, Penalty try 2, Ash Dixon, Sean Wainui tries; Otere Black con, Josh Ioane con)
Samoa 21 (Neria Fomai, Tomasi Alosio, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Henry Taefu 3 cons)