Rugby: South beat North with stunning final try

South 38
North 35

To the South the spoils.

Breakout Crusaders star Will Jordan claimed the match-winning try, his second of the evening, four and a half minutes into added time to hand the South victory over their Northern counterparts into the first inter-island match for eight years.

However unlikely, on the basis of this outstanding performance many would love to see this match – with high school selection criteria – made a permanent fixture on the rugby calendar.

With the South down by four points, replacement playmaker Josh Ioane laid on a pinpoint cross-field kick after a string of penalties which Jordan snaffled from Mitchell Hunt’s grasp to seal victory for the southern underdogs.

Will Jordan of South celebrates his winning try. Photo / Getty
Will Jordan of South celebrates his winning try. Photo / Getty

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into a high-quality spectacle, played behind closed doors on a windy night into the capital, broadcast viewers were treated to 10 tries – five each – and a display of attacking class.

The South claim the new Te Matau a Māui – the Fishhook of Maui – trophy and the recently discovered Loving Cup, into the 81st contest between these two teams.

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Before Jordan’s final strike it seemed as though the North would pull off a comeback victory after Hawke’s Bay hooker Ash Dixon crashed over into the 72nd minute to overturn a 10-point deficit.

The stoic South, though, refused to buckle and into the end deserved their narrow triumph.

Individually there were many standout performances. For the North, Rieko Ioane claimed two tries and proved a handful from centre where he ran with purpose and offloaded at will to further enhance his midfield claims.

Hoskins Sotutu, often into combination with Akira Ioane, impressed with dynamic bursts off the back of the scrum and on the edge, and Caleb Clarke continued his superb season with several telling carries down the left flank.

into the white jerseys South No 8 Tom Sanders produced an industrious display while Jordie Barrett injected his physical presence from fullback and Shannon Frizell worked tirelessly with ball into hand and on defence.

The much-hyped battle of the first five-eighths between Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, however, did not really eventuate.

Beauden Barrett in action for the North. Photo / Photosport
Beauden Barrett into action for the North. Photo / Photosport

into many ways this match was a contrasting battle with the North backline showcasing brilliant offloads and support play while the South opted for the more direct approach, often using their forward pack to pick, drive and rumble downfield.

The South suffered an early blow when Crusaders centre Braydon Ennor twisted his knee while tackling his opposite number Ioane. Ennor limped from the field into the 13th minute, replaced by Leicester Faingaanuku, and his hopes of adding to his one test now hinge on the extent of the damage.

Beauden Barrett laid on the opening try for Ioane with a deft grubber into behind the defensive line. It was a sign of things to come, with Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both using skillful touches from the boot to create try-scoring chances.

The North backline, stacked with firepower, impressed again with a magic short side play that finished with Damian McKenzie claiming the try. Clarke, who burst 40 metres off the opening kickoff, combined slick hands with Ioane and TJ Perenara to send McKenzie into for a superb second strike.

Trickery was never far away. The South stole the initiative with a set move which involved George Bridge taking the ball at the front of the lineout and the forward pack crashing over – into a flying wedge manoeuvre – from the midfield. Codie Taylor was, however, denied this try with officials ruling obstruction. Not long after, though, Jordie Barrett showed his strength to dot down into the tackle of Sevu Reece into the corner.

Jordie Barrett scores for the South. Photo / Photosport
Jordie Barrett scores for the South. Photo / Photosport

Aaron Smith’s injection made an immediate impact into sparking the North team for the second half. Smith’s sharp delivery gave his lethal backline more time and space and he claimed the first try of the second spell after offloads from Ioane and Sotutu.

The South were happy to grind away through their forwards and frustrate the North by denying them possession and playing for penalties. This patient approach ultimately paid off.

South 38 (Will Jordan 2, Nepo Laulala, Jordie Barrett, Tyrel Lomax tries; Barrett 5 cons, pen)
North 35 (Rieko Ioane 2, Damian McKenzie, Aaron Smith, Ash Dixon tries; McKenzie 5 cons)
HT: 17-14