Junior Wallabies ready to kick on after strong Oceania U20 championship opener

Oceanic U20s Championship
by Emma Greenwood

Junior Wallabies captain Fraser McReight says Australia is in a commanding position to build into its Oceania U20 championship campaign after a 62-14 win against Japan in their opening match on Friday night.

McReight was among the Junior Wallabies' best, scoring two tries in their rout of the Oceania newcomers.

But he and his teammates will quickly have their sights set on their next match against Fiji as they bid to become the first side to beat New Zealand in the Oceania tournament.

"Any time you win a Test match for your country it's a great feeling, especially when you end up with a scoreline like that," the Reds flanker said.

"It's a huge stoked feeling in the gut and we can't wait for Tuesday.

"Credit to Japan, we said all week we had to respect them and we knew what they were capable of.

"They came out firing but our defence was really good and our attack was good."

Australia ran in 10 tries in the one-sided contest, with McReight and debutant winger Mark Nawaqanitawase both notching doubles.

But the captain said there was still room for improvement.

"At times in the 'A zone' we've got to execute to turn our pressure into points but it was the first game, we knew it was going to be scratchy and we've got a lot to improve on before Fiji on Tuesday and then the end game is New Zealand next Saturday," he said.

The Junior Wallabies welcomed several Super Rugby players into camp last week and all provided a spark for Australia.

"Our combinations from the last World Cup came through and all the boys who came back from Super Rugby had a bit of experience and knowledge," McReight said.

"And that just showed.

"We had two debutants on the wing in Mark (Nawaqanitawase) and Triston (Reilly) and they showed their skills and their pace.

"They worked really well with Zaccy (Isaac Lucas) and Harro (Will Harrison) and all the other boys.

Scrumhalf Henry robertson in action for the Junior Wallabies in their Oceania U20 championship win against Japan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"And we're keen to see what the other boys have to showcase."

Australia meet Fiji in their second game of the tournament next Tuesday, before taking on defending champions New Zealand - who beat Fiji 53-7 in the opening match of the tournament - next Saturday.

And McReight knows his side will have to improve.

"I know the first half was quite tight and from what I heard Fiji really stuck it to New Zealand," he said.

"And that's good for us because we won't go and think that they're an easy beat.

"We wouldn't anyway but it's really important that we stick to our game plans, review our game and just move forward."

 

It took less than a minute for the Junior Wallabies to get on the board, with Triston Reilly crossing after a break from fullback Isaac Lucas.

Nawaqanitawase then scored 12 minutes after threatening the line on several occasions.

After going close twice through opportunities created by Lucas, Nawaqanitawase raced over on the short side after a scrum.

The tries kept coming for Australia, with Noah Lolesio, Harry Wilson and McReight scoring with the Junior Wallabies building a 31-0 lead in the opening half hour.

But a pushed pass from Rebels-linked lock Esei Ha'angana led to an intercept by Japan center Tomoki Osada, who raced 55m to score.

Junior Wallabies fullback Isaac Lucas on the fly against Japan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

The Junior Wallabies were over again before the break though, with hooker Lachlan Lonergan planting the ball after Australia's maul rolled over the line.

The junior Wallabies picked up where they left off in the second half, with Will Harrison scoring his first try after an outstanding run from loosehead prop Angus Bell.

Bell skittled several Fijian players before popping a great pass to no.8 Will Harris, who found Lucas on the fly and, then Harrison, who raced over to score.

McReight scored his second as Australia racked up a half-century just before the 60 minute mark, with coach Jason Gilmore then ringing the changes to give his bench a run.

Japan were much improved in the second half though, with their scrum, in particular, putting some pressure on the Australians late in the match.

Osada scored his second try of the match when he pounced on a grubber put through from the back of the scrum.

But the Junior Wallabies continued to score, despite finishing the match with just 14 men after using all their replacements.

Nawaqanitawase added a second try, while replacement Sione Tui also added his name to the score sheet.

Flanker Harry Wilson was among the Junior Wallabies' tryscorers. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

Earlier, New Zealand took out the opening match of the championships with a 53-7 win over Fiji.

Fiji looked to make a contest of the match when they crossed for their sole try late in the first half, coming within a point of the Kiwis at 8-7.

But a New Zealand try just before the break extended their lead to 15-7 at halftime and when Fijian winger Epeli Momo was handed a red card in the opening minutes of the second half, the game was over as a contest.

The Kiwis are the reigning Oceania U20s champions .

RESULT

Junior Wallabies 62

Tries: Triston Reilly, Mark Nawaqanitaswe 2, Noah Lolesio, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight 2, Lachlan Lonergan, Will Harrison, Sione Tui

Cons: Will Harrison 6

Japan 14

Tries: Tomoki Osada 2

Cons: Rintaro Maruyama 2