A Zali Fay double and some heroic last-ditch defence saw the women's Māori All Stars to a 16-12 victory over the Indigenous All Stars on Saturday afternoon.
Fay scored the first and last tries of the match, as well as producing a brilliant covering tackle when the game was tied at 12-12, just as the Indigenous looked set to score a length of the field try.
Co-captain Shannon Mato and fullback Gayle Broughton, on her way to the Trish Hina Medal as Player of the Match, also starred for Keith Hanley's side, as they won the annual clash for the third time.
The 2023 Maori Ferns Haka
The Māori raced out of the gates to score twice in the first quarter, while holding the Indigenous to a penalty goal, but at half-time the gap had been reduced to 8-6.
After Amy Turner scored to even scores at 12-12 late in the match, the Māori made the brave decision to turn down an easy penalty from in front.
But the decision the was justified in the end as Fay crossed for the winner on the ensuing set.
Match: Maori v Indigenous
Round 1 -
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
- The Māori outscored the Indigenous four tries to two, but couldn't pull away on the scoreboard due to captain Zahara Temara missing all of her conversion attempts.
- Māori wing Jasmin Strange put in a big shift, running for 159 metres in addition to scoring a try.
Strange dives over
- The Indigenous completed 75 percent of their sets compared to the Māori's 65 percent, and conceded fewer penalties (six compared to four)
- Seven minutes into the match Eels winger Zali Fay opened the scoring after a swift left-side shift.
- Destiny Brill's illegal strip right at the end of the first quarter presented Kirra Dibb with a simple penalty from in front to reduce the deficit to two points.
- The pressure of back-to-back sets eventually told for the Indigenous, with Roosters NRLW wing Jasmin Strange crossing out wide, but with Zahara Temara again unable to convert it remained a one-score game.
- The lightning pace of Jada Taylor was on full display for the first Indigenous try, when the teenager latched onto a Kirr Dibb cutout pass, with Dibb hitting the crossbar on the ensuing conversion.
Fay too evasive
- Strange was denied a second early in the second half when the NRL Bunker found her foot had gone into touch in the lead up to dotting down.
- A barnstorming carry from prop Keilee Joseph resulted in her busting through several would-be tackles on her way to scoring the go-ahead try, which Dibb converted for a 12-8 lead.
- Second-half tries to Amy Turner and Fay saw the home side to victory.
Play of the Game
Not for the first time in her young career, Jada Taylor's stunning turn of pace made for nice watching on the highlight reel, as the 19-year-old crossed for her side's opening try. But just as impressive was the looping cut-out ball from Kirra Dibb which bamboozled the Māori edge defence.
Taylor shows her speed
What They Said
“To all our Indigenous cultures present, we thank you for being here today, for supporting our beautiful cultures and not only that, but supporting Indigenous and Māori rugby league.” - Māori co-captain Zahara Temara
“To our opposition, man that was a tough game. We were a little bit disconnected over there for a bit.
"At the Pōwhiri the other night, they said if you don’t respect your sisters at all then it’s just not respect, so thanks for giving it your all today.” - Māori co-captain Shannon Mato
“There’s no better feeling than coming home and bringing this special moment home. I can’t put it into words, I’m absolutely buggered, but what a game. It’s a massive achievement for me and my ‘whanau’ (family). I’ve been on some pretty big stages in my life, but nothing compares to wearing the Māori flag on my chest and no better place than home.” - Trish Hina Medal winner Gayle Broughton
"My team, our team. Good work girls, it’s always a battle out there and I’m so proud of everyone of you. From the staff to the players so thanks so much for being by my side out there.” - Indigenous captain Quincy Dodd