NZ Maori clinch Pacific Nations Cup - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NZ Maori clinch Pacific Nations Cup

06/07/2008 07:10:18 PM Comments (0)

Recovering stars Timana Tahu and Hugh McMeniman produced powerhouse performances, but couldn't prevent Australia A suffering a heartbreaking 21-18 loss to New Zealand Maori in their Pacific Nations Cup rugby decider at Sydney Football Stadium.

The Australians came agonisingly close to securing the draw which would have earned them their first PNC title but Mark Gerrard's last-minute, 45-metre penalty dipped under the crossbar.

The Maori grabbed the win and the title when flanker Thomas Waldrom crossed the line with less then three minutes remaining and completed a hat-trick of tries from the visitors back row.

Inside centre Tahu and reserve backrower McMeniman each enhanced their Tri Nations selection prospects.

Tahu, who missed much of the Waratahs Super campaign scored both of Australia's tries and frequently tested the Maori defence with his dazzling footwork.

Reds forward McMeniman, who also missed a large chunk of the Super tournament, followed up his cameo in the Test against France, with a eye catching second half performance off the bench.

Australia led 7-0 early through Tahu's first try, but Maori held a 14-7 advantage at the break after converted tries to flanker Tanerau Latimer and number eight and captain Liam Messam.

Gerrard kicked two penalties to bring the Australians within one point and Tahu gave them the lead on the hour, when he squeezed through two defenders.

"Tahu described his toughest representative rugby game yet as a `tester'," Tahu said.

"They were rushing out of a line and I think they just didn't really care whether I got the ball and tried to do something, they were just out to try and bash me.

"Playing with that sort of pressure, it was actually good."

Injury prone McMeniman said he had never played games on successive days before and his fitness and confidence had been boosted by his three A team appearances.

"You build confidence and of course your fitness. Usually it takes me about three Super 14 games to be right in the swing of things, so with three A games, I'm definitely on the way," McMeniman said.

McMeniman and Tahu each earned praise from A coach Phil Mooney who described the dramatic defeat as "a game of lost opportunities".

"We really gifted them 14 points at the back end of the (first) half and worked really well in the second half to get ourselves into a position from where we probably should have shut the game out," Mooney said.

"But in the end we just weren't quite good enough."

Maori coach Donny Stevenson described his team's tournament victory as `huge'.

"This is a new rivalry with Australia and its one that's not going to go away," Stevenson said.

"We got out to a bit of a lead and I never got complacent because we were putting ourself under so much pressure in terms of retaining the ball and you do that against a team like Australia A and you are going to get punished and we very nearly did."

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