Despite bring reduced to 14 men for 20 minutes, the NZ Maori ground out a 32-19 win over Canada today, adding another international scalp to their proud record.
Played on a soggy Oxford University ground on a chilly night, the touring native side only sealed victory in the final minute, when Wellington centre Charlie Ngatai dived over for a try in the corner.
Moments earlier, Canada had converted on attacking pressure to score from a scrum and close within another converted try of an improbable win.
The Maori were ahead on the scoreboard from the start, after first-five Willie Ripia kicked the first of six penalties in the second minute. But they never put their scrappy opponents away and weren't helped by some curious referee interpretations that cost them players to spells in the sin bin.
In the sixth minute, lock Romana Graham was dispatched for a high tackle on Canadian first-five Connor Braid, when replays suggested it was a contact that drifted high after initial contact across the chest.
Early in the second half, second-five Tim Bateman was also yellow-carded for supposedly tackling a player in the air, but again, he seemed to be playing the high ball.
Significantly, in both cases, the Canadians could take no advantage of their numerical advantage and that was the story of their night. Enjoying a feast of territorial advantage - 73% in the first half - their enterprise too often came to nought and their ill-discipline cost them in kickable penalties.
Andre Taylor had the Maori's first try midway through the first half, when he bounced out of a tackle in midfield and found a path to the line.
With New Zealand ahead 19-9 at the break, the two sides swapped penalties through the second half, until 10 minutes from the end, Canada launched an attack that perhaps should have produced a try, but for another peculiar official's call that denied them.
From the ensuing five-metre scrum, though, the forwards drove towards the line and when captain Aaron Carpenter came up short, replacement hooker Ray Barkwill was on hand to scoop the ball up and score. Braid's conversion put them within a sniff of victory.
The Maori had two chances to put the decision beyond doubt - Ripia fell short with a long-range penalty, but Ngatai made no mistake, after second-five Tim Bateman made an initial plunge towards the tryline.
"We just found it hard to get good continuity," said Maori captain Tanerau Latimer. "They go stuck into us - it was a good old tussle."
"The thing that let us down [on this tour] was adapting to referees. We were too slow at doing it and that led to a lot of penalties against us.
"Canada were very good opponents - we knew they would tough buggers and they certainly were."
The Maori finish their three-game tour with a 2-1 record, after dropping the opener against Leicester and rebounding against the Championship Selection last week.
NZ Maori 32 (Andre Taylor, Charlie Ngatai tries; Willie Ripia two conversions and six penalties) Canada 19 (Ray Barkwill try; Connor Baird conversion; James Pritchard four penalties); HT: 19-9