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Pacific Nations Cup: New Zealand Maori beat Tonga 20-9

Pacific Nations Cup: New Zealand Maori beat Tonga 20-9

Former All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu scored a decisive try as the New Zealand Maori beat Tonga 20-9 on Saturday in the first round of the Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament.
Fiji earlier beat Samoa 34-17 at Lautoka. Australia A plays Japan in Tokyo on Sunday to close out the first round.
The Maori entered the match as overwhelming favorites against a Tongan team rebuilding after last year's World Cup, but needed Weepu's try in the 72nd minute to make the game safe.
The teams were locked 3-3 at halftime, a penalty apiece, although the Maori had enjoyed significant advantages of territory and possession.
Wellington Hurricanes center Tamati Ellison gave the Maori a 10-3 lead with a try in the 49th minute but Tonga closed the gap to 13-9 before Weepu's try decided the outcome.
All of Tonga's points came from the boot of flyhalf Fangatapu Apikatoa, who kicked three goals from five attempts.
Callum Bruce contributed 10 points for the Maori, converting both tries and adding two penalties from six shots at goal.
The match was played under rugby's old rules and developed into a stop-start battle, punctuated by 27 penalties awarded by Australian referees Paul Marks.
The Maori, in their first match of the season, struggled to achieve continuity and showed no signs of threatening the Tongan defense until Ellison broke the try-scoring deadlock after halftime. Flanker Liam Messam made a break down the left touch and turned the ball infield to Ellison when the defense was breached.
The Maori's second try came in similar circumstances, after winger Hosea Gear beat four defenders and sent an infield pass to Weepu who had stayed in close support.
Tonga played with spirit but lacked discipline and had two players sin-binned for foul play.
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Scores:
New Zealand Maori 20 (Tamati Ellison, Piri Weepu tries; Callum Bruce 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Tonga 9 (Fangatapu Apikatoa 3 penalties). HT, 3-3.