Australian Schools hit back at Churchill Park, Lautoka with a convincing 29-12 win over Fijian Schools. Although they shipped tries just before and after half-time to go behind 12-10, the Aussies piled on 12 points near the end to finish on top.
Tuesday 25 September – Australian Schools 29 – Fiji Schools 12
Despite the hot and humid conditions the Aussies took charge early.
After 12 minutes Fiji dropped out long into the Aussie half; Fullback Jonah Placid caught the ball 60 metres out, ran rings around Fijian defenders, and scored near the posts - 7-0. A fierce contest of hard rugby ensured and the home team had the visitors scrambling. They held on, and when Australia were able to get into the Fiji half, the goal kicking hooker, Tom Wilson, slotted a penalty goal – 10-0.
But the Aussies dropped their guard just before oranges and winger Emosi Bure went over to make the half-time score – 10-5.
The visitors were a bit dozy after oranges also: they turned over the ball and centre Masiwani Isireli swooped on it and ran 30 metres to score for the home side to take the lead for the first time – 12-10 Fiji. What was going on?
But soon after it was the Aussies turn to catch the other team napping. After some strong tight work Fiji infringed and LHP Adam Pleash barged over after a quick tap was taken – 17-12 Australia.
The next 20 minutes was draining as the two teams slugged it out in oppressive conditions, but Australia finished stronger and reserve prop Tomas Robertson went over – 24-12. A minute before the bell, winger Andrew Robinson scored in the corner for the visitors to win the game 29-12.
Jonah Placid was the deserving winner of the Man of the Match award.
Fiji Schoolboys team manager Setareki Merekula gave credit to the Aussies:
“The Australians did good homework after their loss to the Fiji Presidents XV,”
But he bemoaned the shortness of the preparation his team had:
“For such a match, we need to do a lot of preparation. The Australians had been preparing for this game months ago.”
Australia Schoolboys coach Steve Phillpotts was happy with the improvement made by his side.
“We are happy with the performance and the boys showed a lot of character,” Phillpotts said.
“The boys stuck to the game plan. Our fitness stood out. Our boys have been together for a while so the fitness probably kicked in. We have to keep improving. But certainly it was a good turnaround from last Saturday.”
Green and Gold Rugby sources on tour mentioned that Australian Schools coaches Philpotts and Rapp had turned the team around at training so they could step up in this match, The forwards showed more starch than in Nadi and the backs attacked with more venom. The Aussies must have surprised the locals the way they handle the humid conditions.
All the boys played well but mention was made that 8. Mitch Whiteley and 6. Jack Dempsey, on the bench in the first game, lifted the team when they started in the test match. Placid looked like Christian Cullen scoring his try. Centres 12. Jack Tuttle and 13. Jim Stewart had a big influence and the backs and halves 9. Angus Pulver and 10. Jack McIntyre were in slick form and gave the back line every chance..
Australian Schoolboys 29 - [Tries: J. Placid, A. Pleash, T. Robertson, A. Robinson. Conversions: Wilson (2), J. McIntyre. Penalty: T. Wilson.]
Fijian Schoolboys 12 - [Tries: E. Bure, M. Isireli. Conversion: K. Douglas]
Australian Schools: 1. A. Pleash, 2. T. Wilson, 3. M. Sandell, 4. T. Staniforth, 5. M. Phillip, 6. J. Dempsey, 7. M. Gunn, 8. M. Whiteley, 9. A. Pulver, 10. J. McIntyre, 11. A. Kellaway, 12. J. Tuttle, 13. J. Stewart, 14. A. Robinson, 15. L. Placid.
Reserves: 16. T. Robertson, 17. F. Postal, 18. N. Nadruku, 19. A. Korczyk, 20. L. Fakaosilea, 21. A. Ferris, 22. R. Hodge, 23. T. Moeroa,