New Zealand Barbarians 34
Maori All Blacks 17
The Baabaas did it.
They did what several international teams have failed to do since 2003 and beat the Maori All Blacks. The Maori proved again that they are not a first half side, but they left themselves with too much to do as the NZ Barbarians inflicted their first home defeat in 12 years.
On just four days' preparation, the Barbarians did themselves and their national club proud with a committed and largely accurate display by some sharp talent which would not have escaped the notice of the All Blacks selectors. They also made a compelling case for more meaningful fixtures in the future. It was a shame the weather prevented more than 5132 turning up. Both sides, to their credit, tried to play as much rugby as the filthy, wet conditions permitted.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The Maori, though could not exit their half early, and men such as Alex Ainley, 34 years young, and Luke Whitelock, a week after playing for the World XV, played above themselves for the Barbarians. The Maori were often messy, and they did not clean out as efficiently as the men in scarlet, while getting chopped down often behind the tackle line. Openside flanker Blake Gibson made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown.
The Barbarians were playing with some structure, despite spurning at least two kickable penalty shots, though we did have the surprising sight of second five George Moala kicking the ball, twice, for perhaps the first time in his career.
The Maori did perform a long and stirring haka. The Barbarians faced the challenge as one and perhaps it galvanised them, as they ripped into their work, controlling all the early field position and crossing the line on no less than two occasions in the opening 15 minutes. The TMO, though, ruled that Brad Shields and Ofa Tu'ungafasi lost the ball in the tackle. Later he ruled that Ben Tameifuna was short of a try in the corner.
Gibson then made a beeline for the tryline, leaving Maori fullback Damian McKenzie in his wake. When Barbarians halfback Mitch Drummond dived over to make it 15-3, the alarm bells were ringing loud and clear in the Maori camp. They continued to ring all through the second half.
Several fringe All Blacks prospects in the Barbarians enhanced their credentials, notably captain Shields. Tom Taylor was tidy and looks like a solid No 5 first five, while Gibson is one for the near future. Wing Cory Jane didn't see a lot of ball, but was safe aerially and seemed to be running freely if not full of running until he limped off early in the second half with an ankle problem.
Damian McKenzie was sparky as ever but ran into trouble on occasion. As in Suva, he hit back with a try, aided and abetted by a nice long ball from his brother Marty. But the young fullback's defence was exposed on at least two occasions, notably by Baabaas centre Seta Tamanivalu, who scored an extraordinary solo try from 35m out, in shades of his 2014 Taranaki form. McKenzie did make a trysaver on Moala, but to no avail. Taylor iced it with a try from a super Richard Buckman offload.
NZ Barbarians (B. Gibson, M. Drummond, S. Tamanivalu, P. Osborne, T. Taylor tries; Taylor 3 con, pen)
Maori All Blacks (D. McKenzie, C. Rei tries; M. McKenzie con, pen; O. Black con)
HT: 15-3 Barbarians