Rotorua - Fiji's Rugby World Cup preparations suffered a setback on Saturday when they were beaten 26-17 by a re-energised Maori All Blacks side in Rotorua.
At half-time, it was 7-7 but the low score was no reflection of the frantic pace of the game with daring off-loads and bone-crunching tackles in which the Maori outscored Fiji four tries to two.
The Maori, more at home in temperatures nearly 20 degrees Celsius cooler than last week in Suva, kept faith in the 23 who were demolished 27-10 in Fiji's first win over the Maori in 62 years.
Fiji coach John McKee, using the match as a trial as he fine-tunes his squad ahead of the World Cup, made 10 changes and the result was a pack that struggled at lineout and scrum time.
But captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu believed that despite the scoreline, the match served its purpose.
"We've got a big squad going into the World Cup campaign and we've got a lot of boys who have something to prove. Every game is an opportunity for every one so I think we did well today," Waqaniburotu said.
"It's not easy coming to play the Maori on their home turf so we're going to take the good things from this game and take it forward to the next," he added, noting that it was "a bit warmer" playing in Fiji.
Maori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon said his side's defence made the difference.
"I'm just glad we fronted a lot better than we did last week," he said.
"At times when Fiji got in behind us and did their magic offloads and played like the style they do they are hard to stop but our line held well."
With the Fiji employing the same flair that has made them a potent sevens force, their first try came from a flick pass between the legs from Waqaniburotu to hooker Veremalua Vugakoto.
Sean Wainui, who scored twice for the Maori last week, touched down to level the scores and in the closing minutes of the half the Maori were denied a try despite the acrobatic efforts of scrumhalf Bryn Hall.
He was mid-air after diving over the dead-ball line to tap the ball back into the field of play only for replays to show his last step before diving had brushed the line.
The Maori hit the front early in the second half when they took Fiji on at their own game with a series of barges at the line before moving the ball wide for Rob Thompson to score.
After an Alivereti Veitokani penalty reduced the gap to four points, the Maori opened up a buffer with tries to Alex Nankivell and Isaia Walker-Leawere before Fiji came back in the dying minutes with a try to John Dyer.
Fiji's opening match in the Pacific Nations Cup next weekend is against Japan in Kamaishi city in the tournament which also features Tonga, Samoa, Canada and USA.
Their opening World Cup match is against Australia in Sapporo on September 21.
Maori All Blacks
15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Otere Black, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Mitch Karpik, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Ross Wright
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden
15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Patrick Osbourne, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Alivereti Veitokani, 9 Henry Seniloli, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Mosese Voka, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 4 Tevita Ratuva, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo 2 Veremalua Vugakoto, 1 Campese Ma'afu
Substitutes: 16 Samuel Matavesi, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Luke Tagi, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 John Dyer, 21 Serupepeli Vularika, 22 Sevanaia Galala, 23 Josh Matavesi