The Maori All Blacks produced a clinical display to beat Moana Pasifika in an historic encounter between the two sides in Hamilton. Dubbed as a celebration of pacific island and Māori culture, the match was a spectacle from start to finish, and even before kick-off.
The fixture undoubtedly held a greater significance than just being a rugby match, as Moana Pasifika brought together players from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga as well as other pacific islands such as the Cook Islands. Led by former All Black captain Tana Umaga, it is believed that Moana Pasifika is the preferred pacific representative for the 2022 Super Rugby season.
With emotions already high before the match, both sides performed their cultural pre-match challenges, with Moana Pasifika combining the Samoan Siva Tau, Tonga’s Sipi Tau and the Fijian Cibi.
The Maori All Blacks performed their customary Timatanga, led by Sean Wainui and captain Ash Dixon.
There were star players on both sides which only added to the occasion. For Moana Pasifika, Vince Aso and Josh Ioane proved to be the key players in the backs while former Highlanders captain Nasi Manu joined captain Michael Alaalatoa in the forwards.
On the Maori All Black side, Liam Messam provided some extra experience while Otere Black, Sean Wainui and Shaun Stevenson were potent threats in the backline.
The Maoris got over the line twice in the opening quarter of an hour but it was Moana Pasifika who held the early lead courtesy of two Ioane penalties.
Kaleb Trask was denied a sensational try after a foot in touch but the full back got over for the first score of the match seven minutes later. Ash Dixon scored in the second half to move back into the lead after trailing 9-7 at the break, before Billy Procter finished off a superb move which featured a lovely chip and gather from centre partner Quinn Tupaea down the blindside.
Moana Pasifika responded with a try through flanker Alamanda Motuga after 52 minutes but the Maoris hit back with Mitchell Karpik. Dwayne Polataivao scored in the closing stages to reignite the match once more but it was the Maori All Blacks who cemented the win 28-21.