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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Rugby Union’s Sydney-based National Academy side concluded the Australian leg of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup with a 47-28 win over Junior Japan at Griffith Oval in Canberra last Saturday.
Junior Japan scored two tries in quick succession to take an early lead, however the National Academy turned the contest around by half-time to take a 33-28 lead into the break.
The Sydney-based side maintained its advantage for the remainder of the match, with two late tries putting the result out of reach of the visitors.
National Academy coach Sean Hedger said Saturday’s match and the tournament as a whole was a positive learning experience for his players.
“We were a bit slow to get going, I think the guys were a bit inexperienced in their preparation away from home,” Hedger said.
“These games are all about learning something so even if that means learning about your off-field preparation, it’s certainly a success.
“The tournament has been a perfect way for the guys to wrap up the off-season part of the Academy program.
“They’ve developed a lot and looked like a team at the end of the tournament.”
The Australian leg of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup featured ARU National Academy sides from Sydney and Brisbane, along with development sides from all five Super Rugby teams taking on development teams from Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and Japan.
The tournament was a successful development tool for the Australian sides, recording eight wins overall from the 11 fixtures.
The Brisbane-based National Academy side lost its first encounter 24-17 to Fiji A, only to bounce back and win its final fixture 59-14 over Junior Japan.
The Sydney-based Academy side also lost its first match, 33-24 to Samoa A, but won its last two games, 32-18 over Tonga A and 47-28 over Junior Japan.
The tournament was also the catalyst for Sydney National Academy member, Will Skelton to earn a call up to Super Rugby.
The 20-year old Sydney University lock signed with the HSBC Waratahs as the final member of their Extended Player Squad just days before the National Academy’s final game of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup.
“What happened with Will is exactly what the National Academy program is designed to do, we’re aiming to further every player’s development and in turn build Super Rugby players,” Hedger said.
Australia’s Super Rugby development teams had mixed results, with the Reds College XV and ACT XV going undefeated, Emirates Western Force A winning their only match, Rebel Rising losing their only fixture and HSBC Waratah A Team having theirs cancelled due to poor weather.
The Pacific Rugby Cup, funded by the IRB, sits one level below the Pacific Nations Cup and is a key Rugby development pathway for participating nations, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and now Japan. The participating nations are now competing in the second leg of the competition, against Super Rugby development sides in New Zealand.
The 2013 Pacific Rugby Cup champions will be determined by points accumulated across the tournaments in Australia and New Zealand, with the final round played prior to the northern hemisphere Test window between the four core nations.
National Academy Brisbane 47 – Junior Japan 28
National Academy tries – Alan Alaalatao, Kotoni Ale, Apolosi Latunipulu, Jac Cameron (2), Tomasi Kolo, Bill Meakes.
Conversions – David Horwitz, Jock Merriman (4), Jack Debreczcni.
Junior Japan tries – Yoshikazu Fujita, Takahiro Ogawa, Daishi Murata, Kenki Fukuoka.
Conversions – Yosuke Morita (4).
National Academy (Sydney) v Junior Japan
Kotoni Ale (C)
2013 IRB Pacific Rugby Cup tournament schedule – Australian leg
HSBC Waratah A Team
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
ACT XV 58
Samoa A 19
Vikings Park, Canberra
Reds College XV 24
Tonga A 3
Brisbane Academy 17
Fiji A 24
Sydney Academy 24
Samoa A 33
TG Milner Oval, Sydney
ACT XV 62
Tonga A 12
Brisbane Academy 76
Junior Japan 26
Emirates Western Force A 34
Samoa A 11
Rebel Rising 22
Fiji A 27
Harlequins RC, Melbourne
Sydney Academy 32
Tonga A 18
Reds College XV 59
Junior Japan 14
Sydney Academy 47
Junior Japan 28
Griffith Oval, Canberra