Bruce leads Maori romp

New Zealand Maori began the defence of their Churchill Cup in style with a resounding 59-23 win over Canada at Northampton Saints’ Franklins Gardens on Friday.

Otago fly-half Calam Bruce was the star of the show, scoring 19 points as the Maori ran in nine tries to Canada’s three.

Canada made eight changes from the side which was beaten 39-20 to Ireland A but were under the cosh from kick-off.

The Maori won a penalty after just 43 seconds but Bruce struck the left upright from 20 metres.

However they opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Canadian full-back Mike Pyke’s clearance was charged down by Bruce and flanker Scott Waldrom collected to run in from five metres.

Bruce converted successfully before they doubled their advantage after a fine move seven minutes later.

After a huge line out from hooker Luke Mahoney was well collected by debutante Isaac Ross, Bruce’s incisive reverse pass sent Anthony Tahana running in towards the line and his unselfish offload allowed fellow wing Pehi Te Whare to cross unchallenged in the right corner.

Bruce again successfully converted before Bedford wing James Pritchard perfectly judged a 40-metre penalty to open Canada’s account.

But Tahana extended the Maori lead in the 20th minute after a turnover in the Canada pack allowed scrum-half Chris Smylie to pick him out on the left for a simple try.

Bruce hooked the difficult conversion wide before Pritchard again nailed a long-distance penalty to reduce the deficit to 13.

But again the Maori responded instantly through full-back Glen Horton who raced in after another superb pass from Bruce cut out three Canada forwards.

Bruce completed the conversion to open up a 20-point lead before Canada scored their first try in the 33rd minute through Adam Kleeberger to make the scores 26-11.

A huge drive from the Canada pack looked to have run out of steam but the flanker from the University of Victoria managed to touch down.

Pritchard missed the conversion before the Maori scored a stunning counter-attack try from within their own half.

Smylie made the decisive break from midfield with a 40-metre run and though his pass to Bruce was cut out by the diving figure of Ander Monro, Tahana was on hand to touch down the loose ball.

Bruce missed the conversion to leave the half-time score 31-11 but the mercurial fly-half was again in the thick of it in the second half and got his name on the score sheet after 46 minutes when he broke a tackle 35 metres out and charged through before converting his own score.

Centre Jason Kawau then grabbed the Maori’s seventh try from close range which was converted before substitute Tamati Ellison dived in for the eighth with his first touch.

Bruce converted to bring up the 50-point mark before Canada sub Morgan Williams steamed down the left to feed in the overlapping Pyke for a simple score which was brilliantly converted by Pritchard.

Tahana then embarked on a surging run before handing off for number eight Warren Smith to score and Bruce again converted.

Ross then capped a memorable debut by being sin-binned after a scuffle and from the resulting scrum sub Aaron Carpenter dived over for Canada’s third score.

Canada will now face the USA for fifth place on finals day at Twickenham on June 2 while the Maori play Ireland A at Exeter on Tuesday in their final Pool B match.

The Scorers:

For New Zealand Maori:

Tries: Waldrom, Te Whare, Tahana 2, Horton, Bruce, Kawau, Ellison, Smith
Cons: Bruce 7

For Canada:

Tries: Kleeberger, Pyke, Carpenter
Con: Pritchard
Pens: Pritchard 2

Yellow Card: Issac Ross (New Zealand Maori – fighting)

New Zealand Maori: 15 Shannon Paku, 14 Pehi Te Whare, 13 Jason Kawau, 12 Rua Tipoki (captain), 11 Anth

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