New Zealand too strong for Junior Wallabies

Oceanic U20s Championship
by Sam Phillips

New Zealand have claimed their fourth straight Oceania U20s title, cruising to a 43-28 win over the Junior Wallabies.

While the Australians were valiant, it was a typical defeat to a New Zealand opponent.

They Aussies were consistently beaten in contact, outsmarted by well structured Kiwi defence and caught out by a heavy reliance on a kicking game which did not win the territory battle.

The Australians started the match on the front foot, dominating possession, territory and the early battle at scrum time for the opening 10 minutes.

But that ascendency was not turned into points until Matt McTaggart plucked a wayward New Zealand pass off a set play and ran 50 metres to score, drawing first blood in the process.Ryan Lonergan and the Australians were no match for New Zealand. Photo: SportographyThe visitors had not touched the ball in the Australian half through the opening exchanges but there were danger signs as soon as they did, five quick fire phases turning into points for star flanker Tom Florence.

Momentum then started to swing New Zealand's way and in the 20th minute, kicking for the sake of kicking gifted fullback Vilimoni Koroi a chance to attack in broken play - an opportunity which finished with five points for halfback Jay Renton.

Australia were making no inroads in attack and in defence, archetypal New Zealand heads up rugby repeatedly caught the home side napping.

There was no better example of that than the near try New Zealand produced in the 35th minute, a 22 dropout taken quickly, regathered and run the length of the field, pulled up metres short of the line.Matt McTaggart scored Australia's opener. Photo: SportographyRyan Lonergan was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul from the ruck that followed and one rolling maul later, Ricky Jackson was over.

A 55 metre Plummer penalty gave the Kiwis a 24-7 lead at the break and in truth, Australia looked little hope of erasing that deficit.

Another rolling maul try, Jackson's second, opened up a 31-7 break early in the second term but the Australians responded through Mack Hansen, shrugging two opponents en route to the line.

But all Australian momentum was killed when Leicester Fainga'anuku barged his way over on the left wing, Tom Christie making it a one-two punch in support of an enormous carry from Tanielu Tele'a.

To their credit, Tate McDermott responded with 20 to play to narrow the gap to 22 but a late consolation try was all the Australians could manage at the death.


Junior Wallabies 28

Tries: McTaggart, Hansen, McDermott, Kemeny

Cons: Lonergan, Lucas 3


New Zealand U20s 43

Tries: Florence, Renton, Christie 2, Jackson 2, Fainga'anuku

Cons: Plummer 5

Pens: Plummer