Hosea Gear scored a last-minute try as the Maori beat the New Zealand Barbarians 37-31 in their first match of the season.
The lead swung both ways during the second half as both teams capitalised on their attacks. It looked like the BaaBaas secured victory as flyhalf Colin Slade slotted a penalty for a 31-30 lead with three minutes remaining. However, Gear, who was one of the star wings in the Super 14 and was unlucky not to get an All Blacks call-up, timed his run to perfection to claim a chip for the match-winning try.
The Maori were the dominant side from the outset as they took a 17-0 lead in the first half. However, tries from No 8 Peter Saili and wing Ben Smith kept the BaaBaas in the game and reduced the Maori’s lead to 20-14.
The BaaBaas then capitalised on the Maori’s errors early in the second stanza to take the lead for the first time as prop Jamie Mackintosh drove over from close range. Both teams then traded tries as the lead jumped either way.
The Maori then conceded a penalty at the breakdown right in front for Slade to kick what seemed to be the winning points until Gear sealed the win at the death.
There will be another two fixtures for the Maori as they celebrate their centenary year. They face Ireland in Rotorua on June 18 and England in Napier on June 23.