Māori All Blacks 35
Manu Samoa 10
When the Māori All Blacks met Manu Samoa in Wellington on Saturday night, a lack of match fitness proved the defining factor.
For Manu Samoa, who were hosting the game at Sky Stadium, it was their first outing since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and the physical battle took its toll. Although the Māori All Blacks also hadn't played a test since 2019, they played against Moana Pasifika last year and could call upon a squad of battle-tested players from Super Rugby, and it showed with the Māori side running away in the final 20 minutes to claim a 35-10 win.
Impressively, despite the swirling wind, the goal kickers of both sides combined to convert all seven attempts at goal.
Manu Samoa were well and truly up for the contest, and made their presence felt immediately. Kicking off, the Manu Samoa side were strong in defence and forced the Māori All Blacks to kick for territory.
It was a tactic that wasn't executed well by the Māori side, with Bryn Hall's box kick being carried by the wind and pushed over the dead-ball line from inside his own territory. While that gifted Manu Samoa an early opportunity, they weren't able to capitalise on it.
Instead, it was a Chiefs connection that saw the scoreboard start to tick over. After being awarded a penalty and winning the subsequent lineout deep in Manu Samoa's half, the ball was spread to midfielder Alex Nankivell, who found fullback Kaleb Trask lurking out the back in plenty of space.
With winger Shaun Stevenson on his outside and playing under advantage, Trask put in a deft little grubber and Stevenson was the first to get there.
While the Māori All Blacks opened the scoring, Manu Samoa were taking the physicality to them in the contact areas. Early in the match, the Samoan side were causing plenty of problems at the scrum for the Māori All Blacks' front row and were able to stop the Māori All Blacks' rolling maul close to the line on several occasions.
It looked as though Manu Samoa had hit back on the scoreboard, but a try was ruled out due to foul play off the ball. However, they did score soon after, when winger Neria Formai swooped on a loose ball and finished of a chip and chase to level the score while the defence seemed to stand and watch.
The Māori All Blacks had the final say of the half, though. Winger Sean Wainui was put over by a Nankivell offload after a suspect pass from hooker Ash Dixon in the lead-up, before Trask linked up with Stevenson to push the margin to 14 at the break.
Manu Samoa scored the first points of the second half with a penalty from the boot of Rodney Iona, but from that point the Māori All Blacks controlled proceedings. With tries to Dixon and flanker Whetukamokamo Douglas, the margin stretched out to show a comfortable win for the Māori All Blacks.
The sides will meet again next Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, playing prior to the All Blacks' test against Tonga at the same venue.
Māori All Blacks 35 (Shaun Stevenson 2, Sean Wainui, Ash Dixon, Whetukamokamo Douglas tries; Otere Black 4 cons, Josh Ioane con)
Manu Samoa 10 (Neria Formai try; Rodney Iona con, pen)