Baabaas edged out by Maori in thriller


15 Robbie Robinson
14 Sean Maitland
13 Jackson Willison (1)
12 Luke McAlister
11 Hosea Gear
10 Stephen Brett
9 Chris Smylie (2)
8 Liam Messam (c)
7 Tanerau Latimer
6 Jarrad Hoeata (3)
5 Daniel Ramsay (4)
4 Isaac Ross (5)
3 Clint Newland (6)
2 Corey Flynn (7)
1 Bronson Murray
1 Dwayne Sweeney
2 Aaron Smith
3 Colin Bourke
4 Hayden Triggs
5 Romana Graham
6 Ben Afeaki
7 Dane Coles

Tries: Brett, Messam, Robinson, Triggs, Gear
Cons: McAlister (3)
Pens: McAlister (2)


15 Jared Payne
14 Bryce Heem (1)
13 Rene Ranger
12 Ben Smith
11 Fetu’u Vainikolo (2)
10 Colin Slade
9 Alby Mathewson (3)
8 Peter Saili
7 Alando Soakai (c) (4)
6 Scott Waldrom (5)
5 Kevin O’Neill
4 Josh Bekhuis
3 Charlie Faumuina (6)
2 John Afoa
1 Jamie Mackintosh
1 Daniel Bowden
2 Lachie Munro
3 Rhyan Caine
4 Andrew van der Heijden
5 Dean Budd
6 Tom Dow

Tries: Saili, Smith, Mackintosh, Slade
Cons: Slade (4)
Pen: Slade

Saturday June 12 at Toll Stadium, Whangarei, 4.35pm
Ref: Josh Noonan (Canterbury) Crowd: 9000 H/T: 20-14 NZ Maori

By Campbell Burnes at Toll Stadium

For those who like their rugby open, expansive and high paced, if a little on the nerve-jangly side, you would have loved this encounter to kick off the Maori centenary series.

The only downsides were the plethora of collapsed scrums and the disappointingly small crowd of around 9000.
The Maori should have been far more desperate to win their first game in front of their home people for two years, and that may have been the case judging by a rousing new haka, but this New Zealand Barbarians side was a more than useful outfit, and in Rene Ranger, Colin Slade and Jamie Mackintosh, had three of the game’s outstanding performers.

John Afoa’s lineout throwing went under the microscope, and he failed a couple while otherwise finding his mark, but there was precious little opportunity at this set-piece. Rather the three Barbarians props put some serious heat on the Maori scrum, with Clint Newland enduring some severe punishment by his Highlanders teammate Mackintosh.

The omens were not auspicious for the Barbarians. Ireland prop Tom Court never arrived – he ended up with a test cap further down the island – while his compatriot, hooker Damian Varley, pulled up lame in the warm-ups. It didn’t seem to worry the invitation side, who played with attitude and skill after the opening quarter.

However, it was Stephen Brett who opened the account, splitting the two Barbarians props to cross between the posts in a try that mirrored his one for the Blues against the Hurricanes in February. When captain Liam Messam burst clear of a ruck to race 25m for his try, the Maori led 17-0 and one could hear the floodgates creaking open.

But Peter Saili and Ben Smith slammed them swiftly shut with two well-worked tries. Smith benefitted off fine work by Ranger and Slade.

Just after the break, Mackintosh went over after the ball was rolled along the ground back to him by Ranger. Typical Barbarians stuff – as was Slade’s high ball from a penalty and maybe even Jared Payne’s ambitious 52m drop goal attempt – but it still must have furrowed the brows of the Maori coaching staff.

Fresh legs helped the Maori cause, as did a deft Luke McAlister grubber which found Robbie Robinson. By now that pair and Hosea Gear were opening up holes as the Barbarians had done with the Maori around the fringes. Hayden Triggs finished off a superb movement in which the tireless Tanerau Latimer featured twice.

But before then came a moment of individual brilliance which should have had the All Blacks selectors sit bolt upright and take notice.

Slade took the ball to the line just outside the Maori 22m. With his left, supposedly weaker foot, he chipped over the top, and timed his dive as the ball landed over the goal-line. Lovely. With three minutes to play he put the Barbarians ahead 31-30 with a penalty goal, giving him five from six for the night.

The climax showed the Maori composure under pressure. Off an attacking scrum, the Maori ran left through their five-eighths, who sliced through, and the ball went to Gear. Over and the game.

Before kickoff there was a procession of former Maori greats, ‘Snow’ White and Waka Nathan among them, and including several from Northland.

The new stadium is impressive – the pitch is very close to the crowd, creating an intimate, almost intimidating feel – though there were some teething problems with the seating, and it was renamed Toll Stadium only hours before kickoff. It will revert to Northland Events Centre for the two Rugby World Cup games next year.

The Barbarians can be well pleased with their efforts, coming within 90 seconds of upsetting the Maori as they did in 2002, and this should bode well for future high profile June fixtures.