A captain's knock from Joseph Tapine has spearheaded the Maori All Stars to a 16-10 win over the Indigenous All Stars at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.
Tapine revelled in the responsibility handed to him by Maori coach David Kidwell, scoring a crucial try and running for 125 metres with seven tackle breaks to take home the Preston Campbell Medal as player of the match.
The match was played in heavy rain but it did nothing to detract from the intensity as both packs muscled up early before the Indigenous All Stars struck first through Jesse Ramien.
The try was set up by a rampaging David Fifita, who busted the Maori defence wide open down the right and found Ramien on the inside for 6-0.
Sensational lead-up work by middle forwards James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine led to the Maoris' opening four-pointer to the elusive Kodi Nikorima in the 25th minute and eight minutes later they had a second through Esan Marsters.
Indigenous hooker Reuben Cotter looked certain to level the scores at 10-10 on the 50-minute mark but lost the ball as he stretched out to plant it down. Three minutes later Josh Curran also went close for the Indigenous side when he put his body on the line trying to ground a Nicho Hynes grubber but desperate Maori defence denied him.
The Maori stretched their lead to 16-6 when Tapine produced some neat footwork close to the line and slammed the ball down but exciting young Dragon Tyrell Sloan closed the gap again when he scored off another pinpoint Hynes grubber.
A mistake by Morgan Harper handed the Indigenous side one last chance to salvage a draw but a desperation defensive play by Reimis Smith denied Laurie Daley's side.
Match: Maori v Indigenous
Round 1 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
Players from both sides blew off some steam in the opening quarter as tensions boiled over on two occasions. The All Stars game is always high on emotion and right from the haka and the war cry through to the final whistle the contest was a beauty and the perfect way to launch the season.
- Jordan Rapana was placed on report in the 13th minute for a shoulder charge on David Fifita and then found himself in the sin bin for a second shoulder charge on the stroke of quarter-time. He was joined in the bin by Indigenous forward Andrew Fifita who was marched for running in to join the melee. Jesse Ramien became the third player binned when he committed a professional foul in the final quarter.
- Kenny Bromwich showed why he'll be a sensational pick up for new boys the Dolphins with a superb offload to Patrick Herbert who sent it on to Esan Marsters for a Maori try.
- In his comeback game from a career-threatening throat injury, Andrew Fifita equalled Joel Thompson's record of seven appearances for the Indigenous All Stars.
- Will Smith was forced from the field in the third quarter for a HIA and did not return for the Indigenous All Stars.
- Patrick Herbert produced a stormer for the Maori to bury the demons of his fateful decision not to pass in the dying seconds of last year's final against the Roosters.
- Joseph Tapine became the third Maori All Stars player in succession to win the Preston Campbell Medal after James Fisher-Harris (2021) and Brandon Smith (2020).
Rapana cited for shoulder charge on Fifita
Play of the Game
David Fifita was at his damaging best in the opening quarter, leaving Patrick Herbert, Dylan Walker and Chanel Harris-Tavita in his wake as he raced 45 metres up field and sent a perfectly timed pass inside for Jesse Ramien to open the scoring. A nice pass from new Shark Nicho Hynes put Fifita into space and the 20-year-old made a fearsome sight as he powered down the right side.
Ramien finishes after a Fifita break
What They Said
"It was a special moment for myself and the boys [the pre-game war cry] and especially for our people. We worked really hard to do that war cry at the start and I hope everyone loved it." - Indigenous All Stars captain Josh Addo-Carr
"Every time I call the players so they are so passionate about representing their heritage. The game is icing on the cake of the culture that we do within the camp and then we get the end product with the game. I'm proud of both cultures. I saw Andrew Abdo [NRL CEO] at the end of the game and he promised me we would take the game back to New Zealand next year and that would be great to be able to showcase this game back home in New Zealand." - Maori All Stars coach David Kidwell
Press Conference: Maori All Stars v Indigenous All Stars, 2022
The NRL season is under a month away and preparations ramp up with a series of trial games starting next Friday with a double-header at Leichhardt Oval featuring the Roosters taking on the Raiders followed by the Sea Eagles against Wests Tigers. On Saturday the Storm and Warriors will raise funds for the victims of the Tongan volcanic eruptions and tsunami in January when they square off at Casey Fields in Melbourne, while the Cowboys and Rabbitohs play in Cairns and the Titans face the Broncos on the Gold Coast. On Sunday it's a double-header at CommBank Stadium with the Panthers v Sharks followed by Eels v Dragons and rounding out a huge weekend of trials the Knights meet the Bulldogs in Newcastle on Monday.
Maori celebrate with a haka post-match