New Zealand Maori clinched the Pacific Nations Cup rugby championship with a match-winning try three minutes from time for a 21-18 win over Australia A in Sydney on Sunday.
Wellington Hurricanes flanker Thomas Waldrom’s late try enabled the New Zealand Maori to leapfrog the previously-unbeaten Australia A on the final standings and claim the tournament by just one point after five rounds.
Full-back Mark Gerrard had the chance to draw the match in the final minute, which would have been enough for Australia A to claim the title, only for his 45-metre attempt to fall agonisingly short.
Former rugby league international centre Timana Tahu appeared to put Australia A within sight of victory with his second try of the match for an 18-14 lead with 20 minutes left.
But with seven minutes remaining, the Maori chanced their arm, throwing the ball from side to side, and aided by some ruck penalties awarded by Fijian referee James Bolabiu, the Kiwis were presented with a late chance to snatch the game.
Hurricanes centre Tamati Ellison found a gap on the left and passed inside to Waldrom who barged over between two defenders. Scrum-half Piri Weepu converted from wide out to put the Maori in front with just minutes to go.
It was the first appearance in the Pacific Nations Cup for the Maori, replacing the Junior All Blacks who romped to victory in the Cup’s first two years.