December 19 - 1926 NZ Maori defeat French XV

In their last match before the “test’ against France on Boxing Day New Zealand Maori were too strong for a French Selection, winning 25 – 12, their sixth in succession. With a number of players showing improved form their prospects for the match against France were looking good.

From “Maori Rugby 1884-1979” by Arthur H Carman. Pub. 1980 by Sporting Publications. P. 223-225

“Notes on the Players

Phillips, who has played 28 consecutive games, retained his form, and at Beziers played another fine game. He fielded and tackled faultlessly, while again making many spectacular runs from his position. As a full-back he will do credit to any International side, and will give Nepia a go for the position of New Zealand’s International full-back. At Pau he found the speed of the French players somewhat troublesome, and was unable to play his usual game owing to the speedy following up. He did all that was asked of him, however, and at Toulouse also was sound and spectacular.

Falwasser continues to be a dangerous attacking wing, and is now developing into more of a team player. Several times at Beziers after he had made one of his long swerving runs, he sent the ball on when the defence was closing in on him, and his defence is satisfactory. His try at Beziers was a brilliant effort. The pass which he had to gather was a high one, but balancing the ball in the air, he brought it down and was off in a flash. He was chased by one player, who collapsed in Falwassser’s wake, and left him a clear run.

Grace played a very fine game at Toulouse. He has improved on defence, and plays with more confidence now. His inexperience handicaps him, however. Barclay is not playing well, and his defence is weak. Pelham continues to play steady Rugby, especially strong in defence, but appears to be feeling the strain of continuous playing. Potaka has been troubled for some time with a bad ankle, and his football has suffered in consequence. His play lacks dash, while his defence is not so sound as earlier in the tour.

Reliable Inside Backs

Wi Neera and Mete have both improved as five-eighths, and are a very strong pair. The former gets few chances to show much initiative on attack, as by the time he gets the ball the defence is on him. He takes and gives his passes well and is a sound tackler. Mete makes many openings and is exceptionally sound. If only he had more speed he would be looking for an All Black cap. Shortland played in the Toulouse game, but was rather erratic. He has not reproduced his early form. Love played another fine game against the French XV. He got his passes away smartly, and backed up Phillips consistently. No fault can be found with his defence. Bell continues to play as an extra five-eighth, and all I said in my last letter holds good. He scored two tries at Beziers, the second one being the result of a brilliant piece of cutting-in from a scrum near the French line. He was across in a flash. His other try was also a good one, the result of fast following through.

A Strong Front Line

The forwards are a solid lot. S.Gemmell is playing at the top of his form. he was the outstanding player against the Pyrenees. Manihera is now producing the form which proclaimed him a coming All Black early this year. He played a great game at Beziers, working tirelessly right through. Many times at Pau and at Beziers he broke right away from the scrummages with the ball at toe, and he keeps very good control of the ball. Robinson and Rika are retaining their form, and Matene has suddenly come into the limelight. He is, of course, a very fast man, and in the game at Beziers played a very hard game. His goal kicking is proving a valuable factor, and this, combined with his improved form, will no doubt obtain him a place in the Test Match. This is rather unfortunate for Wilson, who would otherwise get in the team. Olsen and Dennis have not played better than they did at Beziers. At Pau J. Gemmell played for the first time since his injury at Lyon, and considering the long spell performed quite well.

The French Trial Match

Maori team: Phillips, Falwasser, Pelham, Grace, Bell (captain), Mete, Wi Neera, Love, Olsen, Dennis, Rika, Matene, Manihera, S. Gemmell, Robinson.

French team: Andrieu, Vellat, Baillette, Braciet, Villa, Mora, Serin, Piquiral (captain), Decamps, Ribere, Barthe, Julien, Sayroux, Maury and Etchberry.

For the first fifteen minutes the play was fairly even, and very fast. At this stage Rika scored what appeared to be a perfectly good try, but the referee awarded a force down. Immediately, however a thrilling piece of passing by the Maoris ended in Pelham scoring. The Maoris were now playing like an All Black side and throwing the ball about in delightful fashion. A short-lived attack by the French fifteen was ended by a bad pass from the scrum, and the Maori forwards were away. Gemmell passed to Love who threw a long pass out to Falwasser, who gathered the ball brilliantly and outpaced the opposition to score in a handy position. Another score came soon after, Grace touching down after a good bout of passing. Matene converted the tries and at half-time the score was 15 points in favour of the Maoris.

Early in the second half a speedy piece of following up by Bell enabled him to pick up on the line and score, and soon after the same player cut-in brilliantly and scored a second try. Both were converted by Matene. The Maoris continued to have a large share of the play but failed to add to their score. As already mentioned, the Frenchmen scored two tries, both lucky scores by Battut. Maury converted one try and Dupont, who replaced Mora kicked a fine goal from the field. The final score was: Maoris 25, France 12.”

Albert Falwasser scored a brilliant try

'Bill Rika' (W R Heke)- strong in the forward pack