June 9 2001


It was 1958 when New Zealand Maori last played in Australia. The three tests on that tour resulted in a win each, with a draw in the second match, honours even.  The one off encounter in 2001 was keenly anticipated.

Bruce Reihana - "sharp on his feet".

“Australia rugby fans will be hoping that it won’t be another 43 years  before the New Zealand Maori team returns to Australia, Although they were eventually beaten  41 – 29, the Maori won the hearts of local fans with their dazzling performance against the World Champion Wallabies in Sydney last Saturday night. By Barry Ross  at the Sydney Football Stadium.

While test caps were not awarded in the first hit out of the season for either side they certainly should have been, as this showdown turned out to be of the highest test quality.

The match provided for a great occasion both on and off the field with New Zealand Maori supporters turning up in their thousands to support their countrymen. More than often their passionate calls of “Kiwi, Kiwi” drowned out the home supporters. A good hour after tile game had finished many of these fans were waiting outside the members gates to honour the Maori players as they left the stadium,

On the field the match was played at a breakneck pace, and as a result some errors did follow But this often allowed both teams to turn grim defence into thrilling attacking raids into opposition territory.

Australia had the better of the first 15 minutes but could not finish off a great deal of their good lead up work. The Maori weathered this early storm and opened the scoring with a simple penalty goal from Glen Jackson. But lust five minutes later the Aussies were in front after rugged centre Daniel Herbert scampered past the Maori backrow to touch down beside the posts following a five-metre scrum win.

Soon after that the Maori seemingly took the lead when flanker Troy Flavell finishing a scintillating movement to score under the posts. While Flavell and the Maori team began to celebrate, South African referee Mark Lawrence was given the word to disallow the five pointer and award the Wallabies a penalty near halfway for a shoulder charge on first five Stephen Larkham by Maori centre Caleb Ralph. The Maori were unlucky to be penalised for this as it didn’t appear too bad and certainly not worthy of a sin binning

Still, it may have evened things up after earlier incidents involving Larkham were not dealt with Just a minute after Ralph s departure winger Andrew Walker punished the Maori by scoring the individual try of the match and probably
the season. The 27-year-old Brumby flier beat at least five opponents in a sizzling 25-metre burst in which he changed
direction several times.

The visitors hit back soon after when fullback Carlos Spencer slid over near the right corner post. Winger Roger Randle handled twice in this move and threw the long pass that gave Spencer the space to score. Jackson converted from the sideline and an earlier penalty from him had the Australians in front by one at 14 – 13 eight minutes out from half time
Playing his first match for Australia 27-year-old Reds prop Nick Stiles crashed over next to the posts after a charging run from number eight Toutai Kefu. Another penalty from Jackson made the half time score 21- 16 in favour of the men in gold.

Matua Parkinson replaced Flavell in the Maori backrow for the second half and his aggressive non-stop work-rate lifted
the visitors charge immensely.

Both sides traded early penalty goals in the second stanza but the Maori suffered a major blow nine minutes after the break when Jackson limped off and was replaced by David Hill. Good anticipation came from Larkham when he intercepted a long pass from Hill to run 45 metres for a try under the posts to put Australia in front 31 – 19. This was a big
blow to the Maori as they had kept the Wallabies under intense pressure for several minutes before the try came.

But the Maori were far from beaten and when Spencer sliced over for his second try following a scrum win the scoreline read 31-26 with 15 minutes left to play. Hill reduced the deficit to just two with seven minutes remaining and the Maori looked to be steaming home.

The visitors had the better of play for most of the final minutes, but the Australian defence remained steady as usual. The Wallabies grafted their way out of trouble and Burke landed a penalty with three minutes to go before another debutant in the gold jersey, centre Graeme Bond touched down in the final play of the match.

The Australian win ended the Maori’s seven-year unbeaten run, but they were magnificent in defeat. As captain Dean Muir said after the game.
“All of our guys did the jersey proud. We treated it like a test match and we knew we had to hold our own in the forwards to have a chance.”

The Maori forwards certainly did this and statistics from the match show the visitors took the ruck and maul count by 88 to 51. Out wide the Maori also did well and with his red headgear prominent winger Bruce Reihana broke the defence several times. His opposite number Andrew WaIker applauded Reihana’s efforts, stating that “Bruce is certainly sharp on his feet.”

The Wallabies were well served by their bench players. Replacement No 8 David Lyons was impressive when he came on with about 25 minutes to play. His charging runs caused the Maori defence many problems, while he also secured two vital turnovers. Prop Ben Darwin got his first taste of international rugby for the last 20 minutes and did a very good job in the process, while Bond was impressive in the midfield after replacing Daniel Herbert in the 65th minute. Herbert was always a handful in the midfield and he was a deserved man of the match winner.

Wallaby coach Rod Macqueen was generally a happy man after the win.
“There were several positives tonight, such as our combinations working well, said Macqueen.

“We made several line breaks, and while Andrew Walker’s try was a sensational individual effort, it resulted from good team lead-up work. On the negative side we turned over a lot of possession and had a few problems at the breakdown.
“Macqueen said that the Maori match had always loomed as a tremendously difficult encounter for his side.

“We have to treat this season different to other seasons, as with such a tough first up game, we had to hit the
ground running.

“I was pleased with our front row tonight, but it is a matter of degree as to what our standards are. We can’t be
happy with just doing well, we must aim to keep on improving.”

From “Rugby News”, Issue 16 2001 pp. 20-23.

The teams.