NZ Maori in cruise con­trol in Canada

Sunday News - - RUGBY - AARON GOILE

CLAY­TON McMil­lan’s ten­ure as New Zealand Maori rugby coach has started in suc­cess­ful fash­ion, with a pre­dictably com­fort­able win notched over Canada in Van­cou­ver yes­ter­day.

The Bay of Plenty coach re­placed Colin Cooper – who stepped down af­ter four years in the role to fo­cus on his new job at the Chiefs – and would have been chuffed enough with the 51-9 re­sult, in the first match of a twogame tour.

The Maori’s most re­cent hitout was the 32-10 de­feat to the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions in Ro­torua in June, which came af­ter an un­der­whelm­ing 2016 end-of-year tour which fea­tured a loss to Mun­ster.

But they were never go­ing to be se­ri­ously trou­bled this time out, against a Canada side which have slumped to a record-low 24th in the world, be­hind such lightweights as Ger­many, Hong Kong, Namibia, Rus­sia and Spain.

Un­der the roof of the im­pres­sive BC Place, which fea­tures an ar­ti­fi­cial turf, the Maori had per­fect con­di­tions at their dis­posal to show­case their nat­u­ral flair, in front of an in­quis­i­tive 29,000 sell­out crowd, though han­dling er­rors from both sides did make for a rather stop-start af­fair.

De­spite con­ced­ing two yel­low cards, the Maori showed enough class to cap­i­talise when it counted, as they ran in seven tries to none to record their big­gest win over Canada in what was their sixth meet­ing.

With Char­lie Ngatai show­ing off an of­ten un­seen re­li­able long­kick­ing game by lin­ing up at full­back, re­place­ment Shaun Steven­son pro­duc­ing sev­eral eye­catch­ing bursts as one of eight debu­tants and Ihaia West’s mas­ter­ful goal­kick­ing, it backed up a bull­doz­ing ef­fort at scrum time, and some hard-rush­ing de­fence.

While the Maori were mark­ing the start of a new era, it was the same for Canada.

Kiwi Mark An­scombe was fired as coach in Au­gust, af­ter just over a year in the job, hav­ing over­seen just two wins from 15 games and bear­ing the brunt of a re­view by the na­tional body af­ter the team missed out on the first Amer­i­cas Rugby World Cup qual­i­fy­ing spot for the first time ever, hav­ing drawn with the United States but then be­ing thumped 52-16 by them away a week later.

Canada are now faced with a two-match Rugby World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion se­ries against Uruguay in Jan­uary/Fe­bru­ary, un­der new coach Kings­ley Jones.

The for­mer Welsh in­ter­na­tional was with­out sev­eral topline play­ers in his first out­ing be­cause the match didn’t fall in the test win­dow, though one man of note was No 8 Tyler Ar­dron, who suited up for a 26th test a week af­ter fin­ish­ing a maiden Mitre 10 Cup cam­paign – iron­i­cally un­der McMil­lan – af­ter sign­ing a two-year deal with the Chiefs for Su­per Rugby.

The hosts did en­joy some nice patches with ball in hand but were far from clin­i­cal enough, and no sooner had they gone ahead 6-3 af­ter open­side flanker Dan Pryor was sin binned for a high tackle in the 16th minute, the Maori re­sponded im­me­di­ately when Am­brose Cur­tis was put away down the left flank, be­fore soon suc­cumb­ing with a leg in­jury.

Af­ter West’s scrum-earn­ing grub­ber led to Akira Ioane crash­ing over be­side the posts, a cru­cial blow was then struck a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore half­time, when cap­tain Ash Dixon and Tom Franklin com­bined for a li­ne­out set-play, which saw the lat­ter coast over.

With a 27-9 ad­van­tage at the break, it was just go­ing to be a mat­ter of how much the win­ning mar­gin would be.

With Tim Bate­man the sec­ond man binned for a high shot just three min­utes into the sec­ond half, the Maori took a while to kick away, but in be­tween Canada lock Josh Larsen also get­ting a yel­low for tak­ing Brad We­ber in the air at a li­ne­out, they were de­ci­sive in their at­tacks.

Ngatai swooped on a grub­ber kick and and ran down the left touch from in­side his own half, then Steven­son found sim­i­lar suc­cess down that pas­sage with an­other fine fin­ish, be­fore fel­low re­place­ment Jack­son Gar­denBa­chop went over from close range, and Sean Wainui brought up the half cen­tury with a qual­ity burst.

The Maori round out their tour with a match against a French Bar­bar­ians side in Bordeaux next Satur­day (NZT).

Re­place­ment Jack­son Gar­den-Ba­chop crosses for one of New Zealand Maori’s seven tries against Canada.

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