My good friends Sue and Henry offered me the opportunity to watch Harlequins play the Maori All Blacks – I think it was £18 for the game and a drink and a roll. That was too good to miss! I left home in plenty of time, which was a good job as it took me 2.5 hours to get there. My evening saw me meeting some lovely Quins fans which was a nice added bonus.
A little about the Maori All Blacks taken from their website before I write more about the game –
The Maori All Blacks is a historic team representing the proud culture of New Zealand. In 1888 New Zealand Natives was one of the country’s maiden national rugby sides, playing Hawke’s Bay in their first ever match on June 23, with the Natives winning 5-0. Later that year they would play their initial international side, recording their first national win 13-4 when beating Ireland in Dublin.
The first to wear the famous black jersey, the side was originally conceived as an all-Maori selection and ultimately included just five non-Maori players in its ranks.
Conquerors of many internationals sides, including the British and Irish Lions, England, Ireland, while the last time they lost to a Pacific Island side was in 1973 (Tonga).
Originally team selected was ‘loosely’ governed in terms of heritage, but now all players must have Maori whakapapa or genealogy confirmed in order to represent the side.
This tour by the Maori All Blacks saw them beat the USA Eagles by 7 points to 52, Munster still playing with their 16th man, beat them by 27 to 14. What could a Harlequis team led by Adam Jones manage?
The Quins team was a mix of experience and youth, with rising star 18 year old Gabriel Ibitoye playing in the centre, rather than on the wing which is his normal position. Tim Swiel was Fly Half, Ruaridh Jackson Full Back.
The game was the proverbial game of 2 halves, and it was won in the first half by the Maori All Blacks as they scored 4 tries, with James Lowe touch down twice and Shane Christie and Sean Wainui adding their own tries. The tries were a delight to watch as the superior speed of the visitors saw them forge ahead.
A Swiel Penalty had put Quins on the board but the score was Quins 3 Maori All Blacks 26 at half time.
Harlequins seemed to emerge after half time with a different game plan, they dominated the half especially in the forwards, to the delight of the home crowd a Dan Murphy try, duly converted by Swiel saw them ‘win’ the second half with their 7 points – they managed to keep the Maori All Blacks scoreless, which was an impressive feat.
It was a very enjoyable evening and a pleasure as always to see a version of the Haka performed as well as a traditional dance performed at half time. I’ll be seeing 3 different versions in just over a week, with the New Zealand rugby league team up next, followed by the All Blacks in Paris in a week. A sight I will never tire of.