The Indigenous All-Stars team proved pace can beat power as they raced in seven tries to storm to a 34-14 win over New Zealand Maori in their All-Stars match in Melbourne on Friday night.
Much was made of the Maori team’s big men but they had no answer to the blistering speed of some of the Indigenous players in front of almost 19,000 at AAMI Park.
Even rising superstar Kalyn Ponga couldn’t stop the Indigenous onslaught and showed he has plenty of work ahead to feel comfortable in his new role as five- eighth.
“We controlled the ball and the guys executed their skill the way we wanted them to,” Indigenous coach Laurie Daley said.
“We put on some nice plays and scored some nice tries and that was what we wanted to do.”
Local hero Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr led the way early with two tries within three minutes in the first half to take a 10-6 lead.
Parramatta recruit Blake Ferguson was another to get some try-scoring action in the first half and celebrated with a somersault that would have put his new coach Brad Arthur on edge.
Arthur would have been happier to see the ex-Roosters winger, who broke his leg in last year’s grand final, in full flight after taking an intercept although he was run down after a 70m dash.
Before the first whistle the teams opened with a spine-tingling display with the Maori delivering a fearsome Haka before the Indigenous team responded.
With Latrell Mitchell leading the war cry in the absence of the injured Greg Inglis, the Sydney Roosters centre popped up in a team circle and then danced them down the field to within a metre of the approaching Maori team.
The Indigenous team led 20-10 at the main break with the pick of the first half tries scored by the Eels’ Bevan French, who came into the side to replace sacked Cowboy Ben Barba.
New Knight Jesse Ramien made a 35m break and kicked a further 35m down-field with French winning the race to the ball.
The Maori’s first-half tries were both scored by Dane Gagai, who became the first player to turn out for both the Indigenous and Maori teams.
Maori coach Stacey Jones said they were simply outplayed by the Indigenous team.
“We’re disappointed … they’ve got class and speed out wide and they just put too much pressure on us,” Jones said.
While the healthy crowd embraced both teams there was a notable dip in volume when the Australian national anthem was played with a number of players not singing.
Indigenous skipper Cody Walker said post-match that he wasn’t comfortable with it being played at the game.
“To be honest no (it shouldn’t be played) – it just brings back so many memories from what’s happened and I think everyone in Australia needs to get together and work something out,” he said.
“It doesn’t represent me and my family.”