Jordie Barrett produced a classy performance, while Will Jordan scored an 85th-minute try, as the South snatched a 38-35 win over the North in Wellington on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
You couldn’t really have scripted the end to this clash any better.
Momentum had swung one way and then another throughout the 80 minutes, but the decisive moment came when Josh Ioane’s cross-kick found a flying Jordan, who dotted down to hand the South a thrilling victory well after regulation time had elapsed.
For context, this enthralling battle was the revival of a North vs South contest steeped in history, with the first match played in 1897 (won by the North 16-3) and was last played in Dunedin in 2012 (won by the South 32-24).
The 2020 match served as the 81st battle of this nature, with the Northerners having previously won 50 matches and the South 27, with three draws.
In many ways, this clash also served as something of an All Blacks trial as new coach Ian Foster had an opportunity to watch New Zealand’s top players swing into action after the recent conclusion of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
In particular, the All Blacks boss would have liked what he saw early on from North wing Caleb Clarke, who was one of the breakout players in Aotearoa, and could soon be in line for a Test debut.
For the South, No 8 Tom Sanders certainly made an impression, scrumhalf Brad Weber demonstrated how he underrated he is once again, while Jordie Barrett racked up a pile of points as he continued to make a play for the All Blacks No 15 jersey. Jordan is another Test star in the making – as illustrated by his two tries and match-winning power play.
In a highly-compelling encounter, Ardie Savea was as impactful as ever for the North, Damian McKenzie scored and helped set up one try while Rieko Ioane also showed the advances he has made as a centre.
It was the McKenzie assist that helped Aaron Smith go over to score early in the second half, which sent the North into a 21-17 lead after the teams had traded two tries each in the opening stanza.
However, both McKenzie and Clarke went from hero to zero when both were involved in a loose moment of play that undid a lot of good work, and provided an opportunity for Jordan to dart over and score against the run of play.
That threatened to change the momentum as a lovely pass from Richie Mo’unga sent Tyrel Loma over for a try that suddenly opened up a 10-point buffer.
Yet Ioane then sliced through for his second five-pointer before Ash Dixon was awarded a fifth try for the North to shift the score back in their favour.
The drama was far from over, though, as the result was finally sealed with the moment of magic between Ioane and Jordan.
North – Tries: Rieko Ioane (2), Damian McKenzie, Aaron Smith, Ash Dixon. Conversions: McKenzie (5).
South – Tries: Nepo Laulala, Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan (2), Tyrel Lomax. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (4). Penalty: Barrett.
North – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Mitchell Hunt.
South – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Sam Whitelock (c), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 George Bower, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.
Photo: Getty Images