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A superb touchline conversion from flyhalf Damian McKenzie with just two minutes left has given the New Zealand Schools a nail-biting 17-16 victory over Gulliver’s Sports Travel Australian Schools in the Macquarie Bank Schools Rugby Tri-Nations Series in Sydney tonight.
Australia led 16-10 as the clock was running out, thanks to a superb try to Newington centre Taane Milne, but it was St Kentigerns College replacement lock Dillon Wihongi who gave McKenzie the chance to snatch it with his try in the 33rd minute.
The young Christ's College No.10 made no mistake keeping ice-cool to slot the winning kick from the most acute angle.
Earlier the game began with a spirited haka from the visitors after which Australian Schools kicked off and poured on to attack, quickly winning a penalty at the breakdown. St Joseph’s flyhalf Andrew Deegan landed the attempt from just to the right of the posts to put Australia up 3-0 after just two minutes.
New Zealand had a chance to even the scores up soon after and flyhalf McKenzie piloted over a long range shot from wide on the right to make it 3-3.
Australia’s Iona College flanker Brad Wilkin’s game ended on ten minutes as he was replaced due to injury by Endeavour Sports High’s Rohboni Warren-Vosayaco.
New Zealand School’s had a chance to edge ahead on 12 minutes but this time McKenzie was unsuccessful from the left.
But New Zealand were ahead moments later. From a lineout ten metres out from Australia’s line McKenzie ran across field before putting inside centre T J Faiane through a half gap to crash over under the posts. McKenzie converted to put New Zealand up 10-3 after 15 minutes.
The composed Deegan brought it back to 10-6 with a well struck penalty from near the left touchline two minutes later and it was 10-9 on 25 minutes after sustained Australian pressure was rewarded with a third penalty to Deegan.
Both teams launched sustained attacks as half time approached, with New Zealand No.8 Akira Ioane and Australian lock Ned Hannigan prominent, but committed defence from either side held firm.
New Zealand had a chance to increase their lead five minutes into the second half but McKenzie’s penalty attempt from out on the left, rebounded off the left upright.
Then against the run of play Australia took the lead with a superbly worked try. Deegan made a break on the half way line before he found Trinity Anglican School Cairns winger Adrian Henley on the left hand touchline.
Henley showed great speed before finding Newington centre Tepai Moeroa on the inside who linked with his school team mate, outside centre Milne, who went over adjacent to the posts. Deegan converted and suddenly Australia were up 16-10 with fifteen minutes gone in the second half.
Moeroa showed extraordinary power to set up another chance minutes later but this time New Zealand scrambled.
Australia were given a chance to take control of the game when Faiane was yellow carded after 22 minutes for being offside at the ruck but the home side couldn’t make their numerical advantage count.
It was New Zealand who were given the chance to win it right at the death after Wihongi went over for a try in the corner after some impressive build up and showing ice cool nerves McKenzie knocked over what proved to be the winning conversion from the sideline.
In the early match Gulliver’s Sports Travel Australia A defeated Fijian Schools 32-17 in an entertaining affair.
Australia A led 18-12 at half time and although Fiji had all the possession and territory early in the second half, Australia A’s organised defence held firm.
The teams then traded tries through St Joseph’s Nudgee outside centre Campbell Magnay for Australia A, his second of the match, and a stunning long-range effort to replacement winger Mosese Tikicidre for Fiji.
The visitors continued to attack with considerable gusto as the clock wound down but a brilliantly executed second try to Craigieburn Secondary winger Ah-Mu Tuimaleali’ifano saw Australia A home.
Australia A’s other try was scored by St Joseph’s Nudgee flyhalf James Tuttle who also landed a penalty and two well struck conversions from near the touchline.
For Fiji tries were scored by captain Mesulame Vuwai Dolokoto, winger Albert Barty Miller and Tikicidre with flyhalf Manoa Nakolilevu landing a conversion.
The Australian Schoolboys team for the Grand Slam tour to the UK and Ireland later in the year will be announced on Wednesday.
MACQUARIE BANK SCHOOLS RUGBY TRI NATIONS SERIES 2013
at Knox College, Sydney
MATCH 5: NEW ZEALAND SCHOOLS 17 (T J Faiane, Dillon Wihongi tries; Damian McKenzie penalty, 2 conversions) defeated GULLIVER’S SPORTS TRAVEL AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLBOYS 16 (Taane Milne try; Andrew Deegan 3 penalties, conversion) (Half Time: New Zealand 10 Australia 9) (Referee: Damien Mitchellmore)
MATCH 4: GULLIVER’S SPORTS TRAVEL AUSTRALIA A 32 (Campbell Magnay 2, Ah-Mu Tuimaleali’ifano 2, James Tuttle tries; Tuttle penalty, 2 conversions) defeated FIJIAN SCHOOLS 17 (Mesulame Vuwai Dolokoto, Albert Barty Miller, Mosese Tikicidre tries; Manoa Nakolilevu conversion) (Half Time: Australia A 18 Fiji 12) (Referee: Richard Goswell)
MATCH 1 - Friday September 27th: FIJIAN SCHOOLS 22 defeated NEW ZEALAND SCHOOLS 20 at St Marys RL Stadium.
MATCH 2 – Wednesday October 2nd: NEW ZEALAND SCHOOLS 36 defeated GULLIVER’S SPORTS TRAVEL AUSTRALIA A 0 at Knox Grammar School.
MATCH 3 - Wednesday October 2nd: GULLIVER’S SPORTS TRAVEL AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS 31 defeated FIJIAN SCHOOLS 7 at Knox Grammar School.