A speedy backline and composed halves pairing helped the Indigenous All Stars to a 34-14 win over the Maori All Stars at AAMI Park in Melbourne tonight.
The healthy 18,802 attendance was given plenty of entertainment across the evening - before even a ball was kicked. With the Welcome to Country and anthems complete, the two sides faced off with their respective war dances - first the Maori Haka before a response by the Indigenous which brought a deafening roar from everyone inside the ground and resonated around the country on television.
With the noise still reverberating around Melbourne's premier rugby league venue, the contest got underway and it was the Maori who crossed first. Dane Gagai was given the green light by the NRL Bunker in the fifth minute after crashing over in the corner. Jordan Kahu's conversion gave the visiting side a 6-0 lead, but the Indigenous didn't rest - striking back through Josh Addo-Carr six minutes later.
While Latrell Mitchell failed to convert the Addo-Carr try, he would be afforded an opportunity shortly after to rectify that when 'The Fox' crossed for his second try and the Indigenous side took a 10-6 lead into Quarter Time.
With the next passage of play underway, both sides slowed the traffic briefly until Gagai drew scores level with his second try - a similar effort to his first. Kahu missed the conversion this time and a 10-all scoreline looked like a fair reflection of the contest.
A break into the back-field a few minutes later saw the home team claim the lead once more, Jesse Ramien setting up Bevan French for the fifth try of the match, before Blake Ferguson then ensured everyone went home with a remarkable memory, performing a courageous back-flip after scoring just on halftime and stretching the Indigenous lead to 20-10.
Broncos prodigy David Fifita was next to grace the scorecard, winning the race to a grubber and pushing his side ahead by fourteen. Young Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters crossed next for Maori, reducing the margin to ten points.
Next points would be vital and it was the hosts who scored through captain Cody Walker, and it was capped late on with uncapped St George Illawarra forward Josh Kerr grabbing a try as well.
Thankfully for fans, there isn't yet any adverse injury news out of the annual clash. Players will now move into the pre-season proper, with a host of trials coming up over the next fortnight, not to mention Sunday night's World Club Challenge.
Preston Campbell Medal: Tyrone Roberts (Indigenous All Stars)