Israel Folau wowed a Tasmanian crowd of 9,751 with two tries in his first top-level rugby match, but the earlier 3rd Tier fixture proved to be just as entertaining with the Tasmanian Jack Jumpers and South Australian Invitation XV putting on a display of running rugby at North Hobart Oval. The home team came out victorious 35-16 after scores were locked 3-3 at half-time.
After dominating throughout the home side prevailed via a secure defence that continually trapped the visitors behind the gain line, a dominant scrum that turned over hard-won South Australian possession at the scrum-base, and by racking up phase possession and offloads to willing support runners as the visitors tired.
‘This was a satisfying performance by the whole player group,’ said Jack Jumpers coach Derik Joubert. ‘Our defensive pressure never let up and we saw some encouraging signs for our later matches in mid-year.’
Victorious skipper Brett Bentley, voted best on ground, was also very pleased with the result. ‘The hard work paid off and the guys just lifted as the game went on’, said Bentley, who sparked the scoring with a fine solo try off a well-timed run in the third minute of the second half.
South Australian coach Steve Pepper acknowledged the Jack Jumpers’ superiority on the day, but was very pleased with his youthful side and the big match experience afforded by the visit. He was happy with the performances of Chris Walton and skipper Mitch Sallis.
Tasmania might have taken more advantage of regular early breaks from centre Mark Meo and support from Sid Fielea and conceded pressure deep in the scoring zone through penalties for isolation and supporters going to ground. After taking the lead the hosts collected repeat phases to send prop Bertie Loubser over out wide and saw scrum-half Jason Hall dart over for a try next to the posts. Penalties from the true boot of SA fly-half Callum Walton reduced the gap to 20-9 on the second half drinks break.
Two big hits from flanker Beau Scott gave Tassie a penalty in front to restore breathing space before the Jack Jumpers closed with tries to lock Anthony Lean and wing Sid Fielea, wrapped around an opportunist’s try to South Australia’s Matt Henry.
Tasmanian officials were particularly pleased with the performance of young prop Luke Bryan, flanker Dave Craig and the fresh centre combination of Dayne Apiti and Mark Meo. Frequent repeat phases in the second half saw successful offloads to reward support play. Given their next involvement will be on tour against stronger opposition, further improvement in fitness and form is needed, but more experienced campaigners returning to the squad have been challenged for their place by this promising performance.
Tasmania 35 (B.Bentley, A. Loubser, J. Hall, A. Lean, S. Fielea tries; R. Weber, C. Mack penalties; Mack 2 conversions) def South Australia 16 (M. Henry Try, Callum Walton 3 penalties, conversion).