Maori All Blacks second half sting conquers Flying Fijians

Jul 11 • General News, International • 1625 Views • Comments Off on Maori All Blacks second half sting conquers Flying Fijians

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After trailing in the opening half, the Maori All Blacks have come back to defeat an impressive Fijian team 27-26 at ANZ Stadium in Suva.
It was the side’s 305th victory in their 437th match against all opposition, and 20th victory against Fiji in 29 clashes against the Pacific Islanders.

The Maori All Blacks began pre-match proceedings with their traditional Haka, which was followed within seconds by the Fijian Cibi Tau.

The healthy crowd at ANZ Stadium in Suva began to hum with the challenges of both teams being laid down, one had the feeling that wet and blustery conditions were not going to effect the ebb and flow of this one.

As it was between the World Champions and Samoa earlier this week, the Fijians came out with some serious intent, and Kini Murimurivalu gave the hosts the ideal start when he, despite the efforts of Damian McKenzie, opened the scoring in the corner for five wonderful points.

A few minutes of uncertainty from the Maori All Blacks was put aside as they eased into proceedings and managed to put hands on the ball, but despite this could not penetrate a rushing Fijian defence.

Fiji then counterattacked and poor discipline from the tourists allowed Nemani Nadolo to successfully strike over his first kick of the afternoon making it 8-0 after 14 minutes.

The men in black were struggling to put together meaningful attack, but Marty McKenzie managed to get his team on the board at the end of the first quarter with a penalty.

Minutes later Nadolo replied with his second three-points, before the Maori All Blacks stirred into action, their big ball carriers beginning to make inroads with intent.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Rieko Ioane combined off a strong scrum, and the strapping Auckland Sevens star would score under the posts.

The good work was somewhat undone when Blade Thomson was sent to the bin after repeated warnings to the visitors regarding their breakdown nous.

Nadolo would then punish the visitors with a penalty, and moments later would scream towards the left corner to cross for a try and suddenly the Maori All Blacks began to exchange some nervous glances – not surprising considering their were nine new caps in the matchday 23.

Fijian captain Akapusi Qera would then add the exclamation mark and burst through some unwilling defence, and at halftime the hosts were in complete control with a 26-10 lead as the teams went to the sheds.

McKenzie would open the second stanza with a penalty, but it was obvious that the loose patterns of the Fijians and aggressive defence was not allowing the Maori All Blacks to string together any penetrating attack, yet they were showing enough with their phases to show they were not being outclassed.

The Maori All Blacks have now established a remarkable run, unbeaten during their last 19 matches.

Coach Colin Cooper didn’t deny their were some “hard words” at halftime.

Demanding that the team put the ball in front of the forwards more, there was a gentle reminder of the record of the side.

“The legacy helps us dig deep,” Cooper said from Suva to

“They were rampant and we made errors.

“We were confident with the ability we had we that we could come back.

“With a core of good players I knew we would dig deep as we did in Japan last year so I was confident.

“It was a tough ask to play an international in a foreign country so a lot of pressure on those young men.

“I was really proud and excited for both of them, for their future and for New Zealand rugby.

“(But) They are going to have deal with a short preparation time as we have done. We will travel home with a lot of confidence. It should be a great game.”

The McKenzie brothers then simulated a training run straight from their backyard, with Marty feeding a lovely inside cut to Damian allowing the outside back to keep his side in the match, a welcome try considering the duo struggled when knocking down some of the heavy Fijian ball carriers.

At this stage the feeling was becoming obvious, and the teams were issued a formal warning to stick to the rugby and keep the pushing and shoving off the ball out of the game.

As the match entered the final quarter, the flow of the contest lost some shape as both coaches brought players into the game off the bench, but the straight hard running of the Maori All Blacks, increasing as the match progressed, hinted at something to come.

And they didn’t disappoint, with Elliot Dixon scoring a typically abrasive try, and the extras from Otere Black would give the away team their first lead of the game.

With less than ten minutes remaining both outfits went up several gears, but after ruling the second half with a 17-0 display, the New Zealanders closed out the contest winning 27-26.

Courtesy of the All Blacks

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