Cobbo hat-trick sees Māori men go down in All Stars thriller

Sat, Feb 11
Briton Nikora makes a run.

A final quarter Selwyn Cobbo hat-trick settled the NRL All Stars contest as the Indigenous side ran over the top of the Māori team 28-24 in Rotorua.

After a pair of first-quarter bloopers, the Broncos winger jumped off the mat to show his class, including an end-to-end sprint and finish.

Tyrell Sloan, Nicho Hynes and Brent Naden joined Cobbo to score tries for the Indigenous All Stars, with brothers Jordan and Preston Riki, Zach Dockar-Clay and Jesse Arthars the Māori try-scorers.

Despite Cobbo's heroics, Hynes was a fitting choice as player of the match and winner of the Preston Campbell Medal.

The pulsating 10-try match, played in New Zealand for the first time, was a fine antidote to a week when a string of controversies threatened to overshadow the showpiece.

The player pay stoush, multiple big-name pull-outs and the arrests of Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton all won headlines in the build-up.

However, the players put on a show worthy of the occasion, beginning with an indigenous unity dance and a stirring Māori haka in reply.

The Māori All Stars scored in the second minute when Dockar-Clay produced a piece of magic - or pulled off a fluke - kicking into the post padding and gathering himself to go under the sticks.

The Māori All Stars had twice as much of the ball early, looking sharper in front of boisterous fans in the sulphur city.

On the wing, Cobbo was having a tough time of it, twice bottling chances to score: first with a poor grubber kick, and then dropping Latrell Mitchell's pass with the tryline at his mercy.

The Indigenous All Stars found joy on the other flank, with Naden dishing from the back of his hand to Sloan for a first-quarter try.

After the break, the relentless Māori machine began to wear the visitors down.

Dockar-Clay turned provider as Arthars found a gap to race over, with Jordan Rapana's second conversion taking the score to 12-4.

Then came Hynes' spellbinding solo effort, the Wiradjuri man stepping Jordan Riki and weaving through traffic to score, before converting it himself.

While the score was 12-10 at halftime, Josh Kerr's shoulder-hit on James Fisher-Harrisjust before the buzzer meant the hosts would start the third term with a one-man advantage.

Against the odds, the Indigenous All Stars produced another superb try with Hynes at the centre.

Hynes ran the ball and dished to Daine Laurie, regathering the sub's kick before passing once more to Naden, who ran over unattended.

The ding-dong contest continued, with Jordan Riki making amends for his earlier embarrassment to charge over he line when he wasn't tackled when on his knees.

Rapana's conversion put the Māori All Stars back in front, setting up a final-quarter showdown.

The final term belonged to Cobbo, who picked up his treble to settle the contest, even as Preston Riki's 78th minute try gave the Indigenous side a late shake.

"Nothing more greater than representing our people on the world stage. One of my proudest moments," Indigenous captain Cody Walker said.

The result ties the unique trans-Tasman indigenous series record at 2-2 - with a draw in 2021 - across five contests.

Earlier on Saturday, the Māori Ferns defeated the Indigenous Women 16-12, with Zali Fay's two tries decisive in a fiercely fought women's All Stars match.


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