It was billed as a battle of the fullbacks however hooker Brandon Smith stole the present to encourage the Maori’s 30-16 win over their harm hit Indigenous rivals in Saturday’s NRL All Stars conflict on the Gold Coast.
All eyes had been on NSW centre Latrell Mitchell’s first crack on the Indigenous No.1 jersey, lining up a mouth watering showdown with Maori and Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga.
Whereas each confirmed flashes of brilliance, Melbourne rake Smith upstaged everybody with a surprising, late two-try show that introduced the 23,599-strong crowd to their toes.
It added insult to harm for the Indigenous outfit who misplaced Wade Graham (ankle), Tyrone Roberts (ankle), Josh Kerr (knee) and Chris Smith to what they worry is season ending ACL injury.
Remarkably Smith’s heroics virtually by no means occurred, with Maori coach David Kidwell he was tempted to take the workaholic rake off the sector earlier than his match turning show.
“We had been really going to take him off there for a second however I’m fortunate I made the decision to depart him out,” he stated.
“He simply retains shocking, he retains going. It”s not a fluke that he does that stuff (however) coming into an surroundings like this it simply elevates him to a different stage.”
After the Maori led 12-10 at halftime, the sport seemed to be damaged open within the 57th minute when James Roberts rotated Ponga and scored off a David Fifita bust to offer the Indigenous outfit a 16-12 lead.
Enter fan favorite Smith.
First he barged over within the 69th minute to grab again the lead.
He was at it once more 4 minutes later, solely to be denied by the video referee for a double motion.
However there was no doubting his subsequent effort when he burrowed over beneath the posts within the 75th, all however guaranteeing the Maori avenged their 34-14 loss final 12 months.
Centre Dylan Walker iced the end result with an 80th-minute attempt.
The Maori’s solely grievance was shedding co-captain and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (again).
Within the fullback duel, Mitchell got here up trumps in his first massive one on one take a look at with Ponga after the Maori No.1 made a 35th minute bust, just for his Indigenous reverse quantity to chop him down.
He additionally pulled off one other try-saving sort out however in the long run they shared honours earlier than Mitchell performed the vast majority of his second stint on the sector within the centres with Alex Johnston at fullback.
A little bit of historical past was made within the 65th minute when the primary captain’s name was utilized by Maori’s Adam Blair when he queried a knock on in opposition to Kenny Bromwich but it surely was unsuccessful.
The captain’s name can be being trialled within the Charity Defend conflict earlier than a call shall be made on whether or not to undertake it for the 2020 season.