A Selwyn Cobbo hat-trick propelled the Indigenous All Stars to a 28-24 victory over a gutsy Māori All side in the Saturday's NRL Harvey Norman All Stars clash in Rotorua.
Cobbo scored his three tries in the space of 12 minutes in the final quarter of the match to help his side overcome a Māori outfit who led for the opening 44 minutes and fought back to make it a one-score game with two minutes to go.
Halfback Nicho Hynes was at the heart of the win for Ronald Griffiths' side, scoring a try and then setting one up either side of half-time to claim the Preston Campbell Medal as player of the match.
With the Māori leading 18-16 with 20 minutes to go, Cobbo took it upon himself to put his side ahead with a try that showed off all of his athletic talent, before grabbing another two in quick succession to put the result beyond doubt.
A spirited pre-match Indigenous war cry was met with a stunning haka – performed to a chorus of cheers from most of the 17,644 fans in attendance – it was a nervous drop from Cobbo on his first touch which gifted the Māori with the opening try.
A spine-tingling Haka
After the Indigenous hit back through Tyrell Sloan, who grabbed onto a Brent Naden flick pass, Cobbo left a try begging when he dropped the ball with an open line in front of him.
The sides then traded converted tries to Jesse Arthars and Hynes to leave the Māori up 12-10 at the half-time, with Josh Kerr being sent to the sin bin just before the break for a high contact with his shoulder on James Fisher-Harris.
The 2023 Indigenous War Cry
But the numerical disadvantage did little to hurt the Indigenous side, who scored four minutes into the second half, with Hynes again at the heart of it with a break which ended in Naden crossing.
Jordan Riki's try stopped the rot temporarily, before Cobbo took over the game with his treble.
A late try to Preston Riki did reduce the gap to four, but wasn't enough to change the result.
Match: Maori v Indigenous
Round 1 -
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
- The 28-24 victory sees the Indigenous All Stars take the overall lead in the annual challenge, having now won three matches to the Māori's two, with a draw in 2021.
- In addition to his three tries, Cobbo racked up 208 metres of running and eight tackle busts.
- The Māori spent large periods of the match in control, and led for the opening 44 minutes.
- At the end of their first defensive set of the game, Cobbo fumbled a kick and gifted the Māori with the set which led to Zach Dockar-Clay opening the scoring off a grubber which rebounded off the upright.
Dockar-Clay uses the upright with skill
- Corey Harawira-Naera and Hayze Perham then teamed up to stop a likely Indigenous try down the left edge.
- As the game hit 14 minutes Tyrell Sloan was the beneficiary of a flick pass from Brent Naden which sent him over, but Latrell Mitchell was off target with the conversion that followed leaving the Māori in front 6-4.
Slick Sloan glides over the line
- Jesse Arthars then flew through a gap in the Indigenous line from close range, with Jordan Rapana adding his second conversion.
- Nicho Hynes did it all on his own for his side's second, dancing through the defence for a try which he then converted.
- Hynes played a leading hand in the next Indigenous try too, breaking through before linking with Naden to put the Indigenous up 16-12.
- Jordan Riki then powered through to put his side ahead again, but that lasted only seven minutes before Cobbo produced a brilliant 93-metre effort, which included fending off a couple of would-be tackle attempts, to put the Indigenous back in front.
That's three for Cobbo
- Two more Cobbo tries, coupled with a late one to Māori forward Preston Riki, finished the scoring.
Play of the Game
The tried that changed the game, and one which saw Cobbo show plenty of the traits shared by Indigenous great Greg Inglis. Showed great determination to beat the initial attempted tackles, and once he was free was never going to be caught.
Selwyn Cobbo! Wow
What They Said
"Both teams bought their best I thought. I spoke to the boys after the game about the commitment in our effort and how proud I was in the way they went out and represented our jersey, their ‘whanau’ and their ‘iwi’. We didn’t get the result in the end but we took some really proud moments away from what we did." - Māori coach Ben Gardiner.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to lead with fish (Fisher-Harris). We don’t take this feat lightly and we always jump at the opportunity to come back and play for our people so thank you. To the Indigenous boys, it’s always tough playing you brothers and congratulations, you were tough out there and we’ll get you next year.” Māori co-captain Joe Tapine.
“I saw this as a real positive to give some younger guys the opportunity to come in and feel what the week is about and represent their heritage and culture because it hits different. While we had a lot of stars who pulled out. You ask some of those young blokes in there what it meant to put on this jersey and represent their people and family…you just can’t explain the feeling of that. I think you look at our bench we had a lot of outside backs who have never played second row. Isaiah Tass is the perfect example, Brent Naden, and Albert Kelly has never played prop in his life. It just shows how much it means. We knew coming in we weren’t blessed with a forward pack but the boys just put their hand up and did it.” - Indigenous captain Cody Walker