Demonstrating superior playing depth, and discipline, the Maori All Blacks celebrated their 126th international match with a convincing 38-21 win over Manu Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The Maoris made it a 2-0 series win after they won the first game 35-10 a week earlier.
The series should have served as a useful warm-up for Manu Samoa’s two World Cup qualifying games against Tonga to be played over the next two weeks in New Zealand.
For the Maoris it was a chance to demonstrate their proximity to higher levels with prop Tamaiti Williams demonstrating his potential at scrum time. Lock Maanaki Selby-Rickit had a strong game in the tight while blindside flanker Reed Prinsep and No8 Whetukamokamo Douglas were impressive throughout, not only defensively but in ball in hand play.
Among the backs second five-eighths Alex Nankiville had a strong game while wing Jonah Lowe impressed with his two tries and support play.
The first quarter reflected the fact that both teams had done plenty of assessment of each other after their first game. Plays were blocked, lineouts sacked and loose ball covered.
But in the 21st minute, a penalty to the corner provided the inevitable opportunity for Maori All Blacks captain, and hooker, Ash Dixon from the drive to the line for the opening try.
However, in clearing their territory from the restart, a Maoris kick was fielded by Manu Samoa first five-eighths Rodney Iona. He took on the defence, found a gap and then linked with left wing Neria Fomai who scored within two minutes to level the scores at 7-7.
The Maoris used the Samoans’ infringements to advantage to keep them pinned deep in their half. After 33 minutes that bore fruit when from a five-metre scrum close to the sideline, Douglas ran across field from the base of the scrum.
Two quick rucks followed before fullback Josh Ioane joined the line to give Lowe the chance to score in the corner.
Another kick to the corner a minute out from halftime saw a variation from the Maoris with a throw to the front of the line. Blindside flanker Reed Prinsep charged at the line but was held up. However, a check with the TMO revealed the lineout maul had been brought down by Samoan flanker Samuel Slade. He was sin-binned and a penalty try awarded.
Samoa started the second half with halfback Auvasa Falealii bursting into the Maori All Blacks’ 22m area with some bullocking support play from flanker Alamanda Motuga, who featured twice with his running. From a ruck on the line Falealii ran at the line before flicking a back-pass which fullback Tomasi Alosio was perfectly-positioned to take and score.
The response was swift. Nankiville, who was a problem with ball in hand duing the 65 minutes he was on the field, ran into wide open space behind the Samoans to set up play in front of the posts. But from a resulting lineout, another drive at the line was halted just short. When the ball was released replacement halfback Bryn Hall threw a long pass across the short side to wing Sean Wainui who was untroubled in scoring.
Superior substitutes allowed the Maoris to unleash their running skills heading towards the final quarter and Lowe crossed for his second, in the 58th minute, after a sustained period of quality handling to create open space on the outside.
Lowe could have a third in the 63rd minute but in the act of diving for a try from a goalline ruck, the ball was dislodged from his hands by Samoan replacement loose forward Genesis Lemalu, who was lying on the ground. He was sin-binned for his pains and the Maoris received their second penalty try.
However, the Samoans had the final say with some intense pressure finally bearing fruit seconds after the final hooter. From successive penalties just out from the Maoris line, replacement prop Kalolo Tuiloma crashed over beneath the posts for the try.
Maori All Blacks 38 (Ash Dixon, Jonah Lowe 2, Sean Wainui tries; 2 Penalty tries; Otere Black con; Josh Ioane con)
Manu Samoa 21 ( Neria Fomai, Tomasi Alosio, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Henry Taefu 3 con)