Maori break historic drought   14 Jun 2005

By Mark Geenty

New Zealand Maori ended a 75-year wait for their first win over the Lions, winning a bruising rugby encounter 19-13 at Waikato Stadium.

After seven winless matches dating back to the 1930s, the Maori finally broke their duck to earn a victory lap before a packed house of 30,000, and deal the Lions their first loss in three tour matches.

Inspired by the arrival of former All Blacks first five-eighth Carlos Spencer two minutes after halftime, the Maori rode home through a dominant second half performance and an avalanche of penalties from referee Steve Walsh.

Captain Jono Gibbes was a huge presence, with fellow home town boy Marty Holah not far behind as the Maori held the ball for much of the second spell after it was locked 6-6 at halftime.

A try to fullback Leon MacDonald, one of the Maori’s best backs, midway through the second half broke the game open, but a late reply from Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll ensured a thrilling finish.

It was a torrid, stop start first half as five-eighths Stephen Jones and Gordon D’Arcy were both forced off in the first half with blood flowing from head wounds, but later returned.

They also lost prop Andy Sheridan just before the break when he was yellow carded by Walsh for a punch that didn’t connect with Luke McAlister, spotted by touch judge Paul Honiss. Sheridan, who earlier went down with a twisted ankle, never returned as Welshman Gethin Jenkins replaced him.

The test match intensity didn’t lend to a free flowing first half as the scrums were largely a shambles and handling errors saw two promising Maori attacks snuffed out in either corner.

The Maori took a 6-3 lead in the 25th minute with Hill’s second penalty after flanker Martyn Williams was penalised for a second time for killing the ball. Both sides tried to slow opposition ball down but the ever vigilant Walsh punished them, the Lions having 10 penalties or free kicks to the Maori’s five at the interval.

The biggest roar of the night greeted Spencer to the field for Hill two minutes after the break. In the dying minutes the Lions had one last crack, Williams bursting clear but the move broke down as the Lions complained Lewsey was held back.

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