Australia Schools notch opening Tri-nations win

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Australia Schools side has been left with plenty of work to do, despite an opening  29-3 win over Fiji U18s in their Tri-Nations opener.

Australia had the lion’s share of possession and territory but couldn’t convert that into a blowout score against the hard-working Fijians, with  improvement needed ahead of a looming clash with the New Zealand Schools.

The hosts wasted little time in creating an advantage, winning a penalty just 23 seconds in and opting to pile the pressure on the Fijians by kicking to touch.

When they had a second chance for points two minutes later, captain Will Harrison opted to bank the points that time around.

Neither side could eke out a consistent edge as the opening half ticked on, with Australia’s backrow effective in the breakdown but strong defence from Fiji stopped them from capitalising on chances.

It was a tough afternoon for both sides. Photo: ManningHarrison’s second kept the Australians ticking the scoreboard over, though they weren’t afforded much space to run by the Fijian defence.

The arm wrestle continued well into the opening half, the Australians unable to convert a mountain of possession and territory into any tries against Fiji.

Harrison found himself over the line but a double movement ruling robbed him of breaking that five-pointer duck, though a Fijian return ended up in Australian hands.

Fiji had their own shot at a try, with some spectacular offloading sending Taniela Soqonawasaloa down the left edge, before Australian openside Kohan Herbert forced him into touch.

The Islanders took their opportunity at the posts in the shadows of half-time, with Liam Kikau narrowing the gap to just three points.

The Australians came out full of energy after the break, with Herbert breaking away down the right edge after collecting an intercept.

Finally Australia found the line, in the 37th minute, with hooker Lachlan Lonergan crashing over at the back of a driving maul, the perfect start to their back half.

Though the hosts began to string phases together, handling errors cost them in their attacking zone and Fiji’s desperation kept the home side at bay.

Australia struggled to gain a major ascendancy early in the piece. Photo: ManningAustralia no. 8 Lachlan Connors showed some pace as the half wound down, but a forward pass robbed the home side of adding another five-pointer, an issue that outside centre Jordan Petaia fell victim to less than 10 minutes later.

Replacement back Will Lloyd finally gave Australia some reward with a 65th minute try, finishing off some slick attacking work.

Nicholas Frost, playing on his home turf at Sydney school Knox Grammar, was among the best for Australia.

Connors found the line after full-time, pushing the margin out seven points further, with a Ben Donaldson conversion.

Their attacking errors will need to be vastly improved in the next six days, as Australia prepares to face the all-conquering New Zealand side, who have scored 54 and 49 points in their opening two matches, without conceding a try.

Australia takes on New Zealand on Saturday while Fiji will clash with Australian Barbarians.

The Barbarians went down to the Kiwis, 49-6, in the earlier match on Monday.


Australia Schools 29

Tries: Lonergan, Lloyd

Pens: Harrison 4, Donaldson

Fiji U18s 3

Pens: Kikau