The Australian Under 20s started the Oceania Rugby Junior Championship with a 33-10 win against Samoa at Bond University today.
After being impressive in parts in the first half they petered out after the break.
Australia took a scrum option for a penalty close to the Samoan line and when they dominated it, big no.8 Lolo Fakaosilea bashed his way over the line to score. Although 10 Andrew Deegan hit the upright with the conversion, he kicked a penalty goal from 42 metes soon afterwards for the Aussies to lead 8-0 at ten minutes.
Lock Ned Hanigan took the ball up hard and after others were in motion, Deegan passed wide and eventually winger Christian Yassmin flashed down touch to score. Deegan made the tally 15-0 at 14 minutes.
Things looked rosy for the Aussies but cracks were appearing and promising moves were not bearing fruit because of unforced mistakes. After one one knock-on Samoa regathered and charged down the flank. Their attack transition was too good for the Aussies’ defence and Trent Winterstein who has played for Parramatta and Southern Districts in Sydney, scored a nice try in the corner.
Australia led 15-5 at 14 minutes.
Deegan kicked a penalty for the Aussies but they were being pinged in the scrums for wheeling, and some of their passing, especially from the back of the rucks was poor.
Five minutes before the break Brad Wilkin scored from the back of a lineout maul drive, but the conversion hit the post again.
Samoa attacked before the break but was held out.
Half-time score: Australia 23 – Samoa 5
The Aussies nearly started spectacularly when fullback Alex Newsome received the kick-off and slipped the ball to 12 Duncan Paia’aua. He kicked the ball forward but at the goal line Samoa was just able to ground the ball in-goal to rescue the situation.
The Aussies parked in the Samoa half though and after they disrupted the visitors scrum, Deegan kicked the ball perfectly for Yassmin to receive it on the bounce and score in the corner. After Deegan converted from touch the tally was 30-5.
Winger Jack Redden went in for Australia—but no try: he had a foot in touch.
In the last quarter the vibe of the game switched to the Samoans. They peppered the Aussie line with charges but big reserve lock Lukhan LT dislodged the ball for the Aussies and Deegan cleared it 50 metres.
The Aussies looked tired and the bench players didn’t give their team much of a lift. Their worst effort came with ten minutes to go when they were caught napping by their opponents who were wide awake. They tap-kicked a penalty in their own half, ran down touch and Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano, who played for Victorian and Australian A Schools, scored the try. 30-10.
A tired Aussie team elected to take an easy penalty kick with a minute to go.
Final score: Australia 33 – Samoa 10.
The Aussie Players
The versatility of the forwards was tested in the match. No. 8 Olly Kamp replaced 7 Michael Gunn early and played well there. The game ended with hooker Folau Fainga’a packing down on the side of the scrum replacing 6 Brad Wilkin who was also injured. Lock Ned Hanigan ended up playing no.8.
Reportedly, back rowers Jack McCalman and Sam Croke are on their way to join the squad—as is Henry Hutchison.
Although there were some good performances from the forwards, their pack did not work together that well. Their lineout was good and although their scrum looked dominant sometimes, they were pinged too often for wheeling, pushing early, and collapsing.
Scrummie Jack Tuttle ran well but his delivery of the ball was often too late, or ill-directed, or both. When Deegan got the ball well though he and 12 Duncan Paia’aua prospered.
The best Aussie forward was Ned Hanigan, who was Rocky Elsom-like in his play and deft in the lineout.
But the Green & Gold man-of-the match award goes to Andrew Deegan, who managed his team around the park well yet could launch an attack with decent ball, cleared safely, and kicked sweetly for Yassmin’s second try.
The Wrap Up
The Aussies played well in parts but compared poorly with the Kiwis in the earlier game.
It was the first match for the Aussies but they will have to improve their cohesion and be more alert for break outs and surprises. But otherwise their defence was good.
Their attack was compromised by poor service from the scrum and ruck—and a general lack of skill in passing and catching.
Samoa will take heart from their second half performance and will note that they did better in this game than their 2014 Under 20 team did against Australia last year.
Australia – 33 (C. Yassmin 2, L. Fakaosilea, B.Wilkin tries; C. Deegan 3 pens, 2 cons) def. Samoa – 10 (T. Winterstein, A-M Tuimalealiifano tries)
The featured image at the top of the page is of Aussie loose head prop Cameron Orr.
All photos by HJ Nelson