NRL: Intense pre-game challenge between Māori, Indigenous All Stars ends in hongi, handshakes

Anytime you pit Kiwis and Aussies against each other on the sporting field, the contest is bound to be intense.

When the combatants represent the native cultures of their respective nations, you can expect that passion ramp up exponentially.

The annual NRL All Stars Game between the Australian Indigenous and NZ Māori is more than just a chance for some pre-season conditioning - it's an opportunity for players to learn more about their respective cultures.

Hosted in New Zealand for the first time - at Rotorua's International Stadium - the pre-game build-up lived up to expectations, with the Indigenous side performing their 'unity dance' and the Māori responding with a fierce haka.

While the Māori challenge finished nose-to-nose with their rivals, it quickly turned into a show of respect, with players exchanging hongi and shaking hands in respect for their cultural roots.

Once the whistle sounded, no quarter was drawn, with the Indigenous prevailing 28-24, after a match that swung one way, then the other.

"It's a good opportunity for them to come and see how we do it," said Māori captain James Fisher-Harris. "Myself, I'm still learning after being in Australia for 10 years, so it's good to come back and reconnect.

"This week is very special to most of us living in Australia... to teach our little ones a thing of two too."