NZ league bosses furious about Australia's disrespectful haka response in junior game.
New Zealand rugby league bosses have criticised Australia's "disrespectful" response to the traditional haka pre-match challenge after it almost sparked an all-in brawl at a junior international in Auckland.
The Junior Kangaroos linked arms and advanced as their New Zealand counterparts performed the ritual ahead of the match on Sunday, resulting in what appeared to be a particularly aggressive haka.
The under-20s players were literally nose-to-nose and shoving each other as officials scrambled to defuse the situation.
New Zealand Rugby League president Howie Tamati said he was disappointed at the response to the traditional Maori challenge.
"In regard to the actions of the Australian boys to walk up and get in the New Zealand boys faces, that was really provocative and disrespectful," he told Fairfax New Zealand.
He said the haka was an expression of cultural pride, "not a situation where you're looking to fight".
Footage of the incident on Youtube, which already had in excess of 100,000 views, suggested culpability on both sides - the Australians encroaching into the New Zealand half but the Junior Kiwi touching and jostling several opposition players.
Towards the end of the haka officials are seen to be separating players from both teams as the incident threatened to boil over.
An NRL spokesperson told AAP however it would not be following up the matter.
As far as the match was concerned The Junior Kiwis had the last laugh, winning 15-14.
The Australian rugby team famously turned their back on the haka during a 1996 Bledisloe Cup clash in Wellington.
They were demolished 43-6.
In recent years, the International Rugby Board has ruled that the team facing the haka must stay at least 10 metres from the halfway line.
The haka is traditionally only performed by men, and British pop group The Spice Girls were labelled culturally insensitive in 1997 when they did an impromptu version during a concert in Bali.
A New Zealand bakery chain also came under fire for a 2007 commercial featuring animated gingerbread men with squeaky voices performing the haka.