Sizzling Sharks duo too tricky by half in brilliant All Star display to inspire Indigenous side’s slick win over Maori

Sizzling Sharks duo too tricky by half in brilliant All Star display to inspire Indigenous side's slick win over Maori

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With Cronulla halves Nicho Hynes and Braydon Trindall operating brilliantly on the same wavelength, the Indigenous All Stars were in perfect synch in Townsville on Friday night.

The playmaking duo were at the heart of the Indigenous side’s all-round dominance over a committed Maori outfit which never quite kicked into gear.

After leading 16-8 at half-time, the Indigenous side added a late try to Alofiana Khan-Pereira to close out a 22-14 triumph to retain possession of the Arthur Beetson Cup.

Immortal halfback Andrew Johns was impressed with the way Hynes and Trindall pulled the strings for the Indigenous attack.

“Cronulla fans get excited with the way these two halves have played,” he said on Nine commentary.

“They’ll only get better as the season goes on.”

Trindall was a popular winner of the Preston Campbell Medal as the player of the match for his five-star display topped off by his two try assists.

He was elevated to five-eighth ahead of Matt Moylan late in the season last year but now that his rival pivot is cashing in a superannuation cheque in the Super League, he will have the chance to establish a long-term halves combination with his Dally M Medal-winning Cronulla teammate.

For a team that has been regular-season menaces but finals flakes over the past couple of seasons, they need a shot of X-factor to avoid falling short of the very top for a third straight year.

It is hard in matches like the All Stars contest for the teams to find cohesion given it is the players’ first match of the year and they come from many clubs to have limited preparation time.

But despite slippery and humid conditions, both sides looked slick for much of the contest.

And the players looked rock hard fit after a summer sweating it out on the training paddock.

The epitome of the passion on display was Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow sprinting like his life depended on it to get out of the in-goal area to evade four Maori defenders when he could have quite easily conceded a line drop-out.

Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell and Roosters hooker Brandon Smith, a couple of players who have had their fitness questioned in recent seasons, looked trim, taut and terrific while logging big minutes.

Mitchell described his All Stars experience after being named captain “the best week of my life” and also quashed any fears that he had suffered a knee injury during the match.

Raiders prop Joseph Tapine opened the scoring in the third minute for the Maori when he barged over from close range before Josh Addo-Carr drew first blood when he ran off Mitchell to dive over in the corner.

The Foxx was shaking a leg again in the 17th minute for the Indigenous mob when he latched onto a Trindall grubber which had been fumbled at the back by Jesse Arthars.

And when Tabuai-Fidow won the race to a perfectly placed chip from Trindall into the in-goal area, the home side was up 16-4 midway through the second quarter.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 16: Latrell Mitchell of the Indigenous All-Stars passes as he is tackled during the NRL All-Stars match between Men's Australia Indigenous All Stars and Aotearoa NZ Men's Maori Tane at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on February 16, 2024 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Latrell Mitchell is tackled. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Addo-Carr was sent from the field the last time he played at the end of last year in the Koori Knockout which meant he was rubbed out of Australia’s Pacific Championships campaign.

He looked fit and hungry at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, unveiling his trademark speed on several occasions – Bulldogs fans will be hoping he shows similar passion in the blue and white this year after a couple of relatively lacklustre years since switching from Melbourne.

While many pre-season contests are treated like trials with players coming and going from the interchange bench, both teams kept their stars on the park and the defensive lines remained resolute. 

Khan-Pereira sealed the result in the 70th minute when he sped onto a superbly looped cut-out pass from Hynes before young Broncos forward Xavier Willison crossed for a consolation try on the stroke of full-time.

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