With culture and heritage on full display, it was a masterclass from Brandon Smith that got the Maori All-Stars over the line.
His hard-running style proved too much for the Indigenous side, as he single-handedly carved them up.
Playing understudy to veteran hooker Cameron Smith at the Storm, many have known of Brandon’s ability for several years.
As Smith shone, the game itself was filled with raw emotion and vigour.
The game meant a lot to both sides and it showed as they turned up to play, ready to win.
The Maori side would strike first as a swift back-line play saw Dallin Watene-Zelenziak score in the corner.
The Canterbury Bulldogs winger would later leave the field with a back hematoma injury.
Hitting back soon after, the Indigenous side scored through Josh Curran. After a powerful burst by Josh Kerr, a quick offload found Curran who scored near the posts.
Not to be outdone in the first half, the Maori side would again score and take the lead.
This time, it was Kodi Nikorima who showed his skills to dart through the line to score.
On the stroke of half-time (or, the end of the second quarter), it was Blake Ferguson who continued his strong pre-season with a try of his own for the Indigenous side.
They would soon extend their lead in the second half, when David Fifita made a break down the right flank.
He found James Roberts who showed blinding pace to fly past everyone else and score an easy try by his standards.
As the game wore on, the Indigenous side dug deep, clinging to a narrow margin.
The Maori side needed someone to step up and it was Smith who did so.
Running at pace, he tore through some previously resolute Indigenous defence and scored his first try.
Smith would have a second try disallowed rather contentiously for a double movement but he would not be denied again.
With the game in the balance, Smith darted over, confusing the defenders and scoring his second in the process.
To rub salt into the wound, Dylan Walker scored another late try for Maori side.
But, in the end, it was Smith’s night. A masterclass from a player who proved he is ready to step into the starting spot.
To make matters worse for the Indigenous side and some clubs, was the injuries sustained.
On top of Zelezniak’s back injury, Chris Smith left the field with an ACL injury, Josh Kerr ended the game in a leg brace and Tyrone Roberts also left the field.
“I thought he was going really well too Smithy,” Daley said.
If it is an ACL which they think it might be, he’s out of the year and after putting in all the hard work it is just disappointing.”
“Whether it is one of these games or at training you can always get an injury and he’s just unlucky.
“We got a lot of injuries towards the end and lost a lot of troops. Losing Tyrone, we didn’t really have a strong number seven.”
Smith’s performance drew praise from Maori coach David Kidwell and deservedly so.
“He just keeps surprising, he just keeps going,” Kidwell said.
“We were actually going to take him off for a second but lucky we made the decision to leave him out there.
“It’s not a fluke that he does that, he does it for club football too. He just elevated himself to another level.”