Rugby league in 2021 has started with a draw, after the Indigenous and Māori All Stars played-out a stalemate at North Queensland Stadium in Townsville.
- The rugby league All Stars game had its first-ever draw
- The tense clash was highlighted by spirited goal line defence from both sides
- Earlier, the Women’s Maori All Stars defeated the Indigenous side 24-0
The Indigenous side scored eight points in the last 11 minutes to secure the 10-all deadlock.
The match, being played over four 20-minute quarters at North Queensland Stadium in Townsville, looked anything but an exhibition in the opening stages.
Strong defence from the opening kick-off followed on from the intensity and passion both sides showed in the pre-game war dances.
Indigenous All Star Latrell Mitchell and Māori All Star Benji Marshall, led their side in the war dances which set the scene for the opening quarter.
Poor weather in Townsville made controlling the football difficult, with several errors early on.
Despite defending their line for most of the first half, the Indigenous side scored the only points through a penalty goal in the first quarter.
The second quarter was an arm wrestle.
The Indigenous All Stars had the ascendancy after Zane Musgrove was sin-binned for a shoulder charge.
But the score remained 2-0 into the break.
The Māori All Stars blew the game open with two tries in the third quarter.
Jordan Riki scored in the 49th minute then Dallin Watene-Zelezniak just four minutes later.
The Māori All Stars appeared to be on the cusp of sealing the win when Tyrone Peachey was sin-binned for a professional foul.
But the Māori side could not take advantage of the under-strength defence.
It was the Indigenous All Stars who were able to score, while only having 12 men on the field.
Alex Johnston scored in the 69th minute to bring the score back to 10-8.
Mitchell then slotted a penalty goal from point-blank-range with just one minute left to tie the scores.
There was a little bit of confusion on the field, with players needing to be told there was no golden point to decide the contest.
Earlier in the day, the Māori side won the Women’s All Stars match over the Indigenous side.
The Māori side scored five tries to nothing to take the 24-0 win.
Fans get their first taste of new rules
With the start of the new season, the All Stars game has given fans a chance to assess some of the new rules for this season.
The six-again rule, which was introduced last year for ruck infringements, is also being used when defenders do not retreat 10 metres and are offside.
There are now fewer scrums with a play-the-ball restarting play after the ball has gone into touch.
The team with the ball is allowed to choose whether they take the play-the-ball 10 or 20 metres from the sideline, or in the middle of the field.
There is also a change to incorrect play-the-balls.
What was once a penalty to the offending side, has turned into a simple change of possession.
This happened in the second quarter of the men’s game when Blake Ferguson was deemed to have not played the ball correctly.
The Māori All Stars were awarded a play-the-ball.
Something the fans did not get to see — despite the draw — was a long-range field goal attempted.
Two points will be awarded if a side can hit the field goal from beyond 40 metres.