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How It Was Reported Down Under.
6 June 2005, 10:02 am
"We didn't put in a performance worthy of winning, I think this is a real make or break moment for us. We've got to stay as a tight unit and prove what we're really worth." - Brian O'Driscoll
NZ Maori Create History In Hamilton - By Steve Boughey - The New Zealand Herald. They've been seeking their first win over the British Isles for 75 years, and tonight they finally achieved it. A spirited and determined New Zealand Maori side tonight defeated a gallant British and Irish Lions team by 19 points to 13, in front of a packed house at a chilly Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.

After coming close on each and every occasion the two sides have met down the years, on this frosty Waikato night Jono Gibbes' men did enough to notch a first and hard-won victory over the touring side.

From the time their stirring haka sent a ferocious challenge to the Lions, and shivers down the spine of all onlookers, it seemed that this was indeed a night of destiny for the Matt Te Pou-coached team in black.

Points were hard to come by in the first half of the match, and at the break the score was just 6-all, two penalties apiece. The Lions management had expressed a few niggles about the refereeing during the week, and indeed it didn't take long for the first stoush to develop.

It came at scrum time a few harmless punches thrown and it signalled the start of a hotly contested first half between the two front rows. The aggression culminated in the sinbinning of Lions prop Andy Sheridan just before the interval, for throwing a punch.

For the Maori, halfback Piri Weepu was in good touch, his distribution to the backs top notch despite the bad ball he often received. For the other side, scrum half Matt Dawson staked a claim for a test jumper with some moments of inspiration, too.

In the forwards Marty Holah seemed to get the better of his much-vaunted counterpart, Martin Williams of Wales. Holah was frequently first to the breakdown.

In the Lions pack, lock Simon Shaw stood out, and was responsible for much of the lineout ball they gained. In the second half, however, he was outshone by Maori jumper Sean Hohneck.

The cold dewy night was responsible for a lot of dropped ball on both sides. But in the end it was just the two penalties apiece by David Hill for the Maori and Stephen Jones for the Lions to put the two sides locked at halftime.

Referee Steve Walsh had his hands full in a scrappy encounter up front. The penalty count, which favoured the tourists early, swung around in the Maori's favour in the second spell. The Lions forwards wre never short of a word or three of advice in Walsh's ear, but he kept control of the situation.

Nonetheless, few would be surprised if Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward doesn't have more to say about refereeing, in the wake of tonight's intense and fiery match.

In the second half, Carlos Spencer made an appearance at first five-eighths, to say farewell to New Zealand rugby fans in the best way possible on a winning side. The crowd got to see some of his trademark kicks and grubbers, many of which put the opposition under extreme pressure.

With David Hill gone, Luke McAlister took over the kicking duties, with plenty of success. The youngster isn't long out of Westlake Boys High School on Auckland's North Shore, but at times his canny boot showed a maturity beyond his years.

Leon MacDonald showed his All Black class time and time again, while the star-studded Maori backline which included Rico Gear, Rua Tipoki and Caleb Ralph were always a handful for the scrambling Lions defence.

However, there was one hero who stood out from the rest in the Maori jersey tonight, and that was captain Gibbes. In the final moments, as the Lions threw everything at the Maori to try and keep their unbeaten tour record alive, it was Gibbes who put his body on the line and snatched some decisive line-out ball to deny the visitors. By the fulltime siren he looked a battered and bruised man but his smile told the whole story.

The Lions had hoped to make a statement in this match, by fielding a very strong side. In the end, it was the Maori who wanted it more, and who pulled off an exhilarating and historic win.

Lions Suffer First Tour Defeat To Maori. - Reuters. The British and Irish Lions suffered their first rugby tour defeat on Saturday night when the New Zealand Maori dominated throughout to secure a richly deserved 19-13 victory - their first ever win over the Lions.

Maori fullback Leon MacDonald scored the only try for his side, while Luke McAlister added two penalties and a conversion. David Hill also slotted two first half penalties.

The Lions were on the back foot for almost the entire game and threatened only in the last 10 minutes when captain Brian O'Driscoll scored a brilliant individual try. Despite the late surge, however, the Lions were well beaten as retiring Maori coach Matt Te Pou signed off with the biggest victory of his 10-year career with the side.

The Maori had never beaten the Lions in their seven previous meetings stretching back to 1930, though on their last tour in 1993 led 20-0 before captain Gavin Hastings virtually single-handedly dragged his side back into the game for a 24-20 win.

On Saturday, however, it was Maori captain Jono Gibbes who was the inspiration. The flanker was a dominant force in the lineout and breakdown, areas where the Lions struggled again, and did his All Blacks selection chances no harm when the team for the Test series against the Lions on Sunday.

"There's no doubt the better team won and the scoreline probably flattered us a little bit," Lions coach Clive Woodward told Sky Sports TV. "We've got to learn the right lessons, which is you are not going to win a game at this level if you spend that amount of time in their half.

"The contact area is a real combat zone out here we seemed to lose it a bit there. It was difficult for Stephen Jones to get us out of his half as he was under so much pressure. "It was always going to be tough, tonight makes it a bit tougher but it's all about winning the Test series."

The first Test takes place on June 25th and the Lions have a long way to go, particularly at the breakdown, to be competitive. The first half was intense, but error-ridden with two penalties apiece for Jones and Hill making it 6-6 at the break.

It meant that the Lions have failed to reach halftime in the lead in any of their four games to date, including their pre-departure match against Argentina.

The Lions had lost prop Andrew Sheridan to the sin bin for throwing a punch but even his return early in the second half failed to halt the one-way traffic.

The Maori dominated possession and territory, being held out by impressive Lions defending before McAlister landed a penalty in the 52nd minute to spark a purple patch for the home side.

MacDonald broke two tackles before squirting over for a try six minutes later and McAlister's conversion and another penalty made it 19-6.

O'Driscoll's brilliance gave the tourists same late hope but the Maori deservedly held on.

"It's about the people that went before us and I'm really proud of the way the guys played," said Gibbes.

Carlos Spencer, impressive as a second-half replacement, added: "It was a huge game and a huge victory for the Maori people - there are some emotional guys in the changing room right now."

There was little O'Driscoll could take from the game. "I think we were just struggling the whole time to get possession and to play in their third of the field," said the Irish centre. "The majority of the game was played in our half and it's hard to score points from there.

"We didn't put in a performance worthy of winning that game, we've got a lot to go back and ponder on. I think this is a real make or break moment for us. We've got to stay as a tight unit and prove what we're really worth."

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