New Zealand Secondary Schools have ended their 2010 campaign on a high with a 30-21 win over Australia Secondary Schools at Otago Boys High School. The win ensures that New Zealand will finish the year unbeaten.
New Zealand dominated the first half as they sent wave after wave of attack at Australia, who opted to kick most of their ball. Despite this, the score remained close for much of the half. After landing a penalty 15 minutes in, New Zealand finally managed to cross the line with a try under the posts to Jason Emery after one of many breaks in the midfield. TJ Perenara kicked the conversion to extend the lead to 10-0. A penalty late in the half by Dion Taumata saw Australia get onto the scoreboard, taking the halftime score to 10-3.
The first half was almost a repeat of their previous game for New Zealand, as they constantly created chances, breaking tackles in the midfield, but were unable to convert their chances into points. Australia didn't offer a lot early on, struggling to hold possession and kicking for field position rather than use their ball to attack.
It was with great relief then, that New Zealand were able to make the most of their first chance in the second half as James Lowe broke the defence and brought the ball around under the post to score a second try for New Zealand. The try was converted to give New Zealand a commanding 17-3 lead.
However, if New Zealanders have learnt one thing in sports, it's that you never write off the Aussie's. And this was no exception. Australia mounted a furious comeback, after a great buildup they were able to cross for their first try as Curtis Browning crashed over from a pick-and-go. The try went unconverted. Both teams then exchanged penalties to take the score to 20-11.
The Australian back line then showed their class, as winger Chris Feauai-Sautia scored after a good break from fullback Lewis Holland. The try was converted to take the score to 20-18 and with plenty of time to go. It was game on.
Another penalty apiece saw the score go to 23-21 with fulltime approaching. It was the New Zealanders however, who were able to secure the win with a try in the corner to winger Bryn Hall after a well-executed back line move saw a big hole open for him to coast through. The try was converted and the game was won by New Zealand.
The scoreline probably flattered the Australians slightly, as the New Zealand team were dominant for much of the game, other than for 20 minutes of the second half where Australia were able to get the better of them and make their chances count.
New Zealand's standout performer was centre/fullback James Lowe, who constantly threatened with his elusive, strong running. Other players to impress were TJ Perenara who directed play well at halfback, Junior Tofa-Vaa who showed some good pace and the destructive centre, Jason Emery. In the forwards, blindside flanker Tupou Sopoaga who had a high work rate and ran well with the ball. The locking pair of Michael Fatialofa and Nick Ross also impressed, both doing plenty of work while also proving exceptionally good in the lineouts.
Australia's best player was openside flanker Boyd Killingworth. He constantly interrupted New Zealand's flow and was impressive in his ability to effect turnovers at the breakdown. First-five Dion Taumata played well, showing some good vision with some well-placed kicks but was possibly guilty of kicking away too much ball in the first half. Fullback Lewis Holland was classy, showing some great skill and elusiveness running from the back.
The match would have been a great learning experience for everyone involved, as they got a taste of what is required to excel at higher levels. Both teams were guilty at times of holding the ball and trying to be individuals. While they may have gotten away with this at First XV level, it was clear that they would not at higher levels and everyone would have learnt from the game and will be better for it in the future as they look to further their rugby credentials by moving onto the next level next year.
New Zealand 30 (Jason Emery, James Lowe, Bryn Hall tries; TJ Perenara three penalties, three conversions)
Australia 21 (Curtis Browning, Chris Feauai-Sautia tries; Dion Taumata three penalties, one conversion)