New Zealand A Schools in the guise of NZ Barbarians Schools defeated Australian Schools 34-21 today at Porirua Park in Wellington.
The Aussie boys were disadvantaged by playing for all but two minutes with 14 men but they could have got closer had they played better.
At 1 minute 53 seconds Aussie 10 Jordan Jackson-Hope tip-tackled NZ 9 Liam Howley and got red-carded. The young man was distraught about what he had done but it was a fair carding. It also ruined the match as a contest.
But being a man short didn’t stop the Aussies taking the lead, with 9 Harrison Goddard slotting a penalty goal from nearly 40 metres out.
Soon after NZ 15 Caleb Makene made a good run but the Aussies got a supporting runner into touch for a five-metre lineout. As was going to be the case many times, they lost the ball on their throw, and 3 Sione Asi went over the line for NZ—but hello: Aussie 3 Gavin Luka was able to tackle his arm to dislodge the ball. No try.
Aussie 15 Jordan Fulivai couldn’t clear the scrum ball from in-goal and when NZ scrummed from the same spot nobody could get a shoulder onto Kiwi 10 D’Angelo Leuila. He dotted down for a softie and his conversion made the score 7-3 to the home team at eleven minutes.
With no Aussie fullback in position an excellent box kick from Howley had 11 Sepesa Loga-Tarogi turning around after a wicked bounce. When he was forced to hold on Leuila goaled a penalty for NZ to lead 10-3 at 16 minutes.
Halfway through the first half you could see that being a back short hindered their defensive efforts, but it also limited their attacking options because their play maker was missing, and deception was nigh impossible for an out-numbered back line anyway.
But there were other difficulties: the NZ 4, 5 and 6 were each two metres tall and it was difficult to get lineout ball over their hands safely even if the ball was thrown accurately, which it wasn’t most of the time.
Another problem was that the only specialist openside flanker in the Aussie touring party was not in the 23, and the no. 7 of the day, Hugh Summerhayes—a good 6 or second row— had neither the rat cunning nor the speed to the ball of a specialist.
The Aussies got ten metres out from the NZ line but were pinged for going off feet, the ball-carrier isolated. However they kicked two penalty goals to one, to be behind just 13-9 at 32 minutes.
Up to then the young Aussies had handled being a man short and the shape of their remaining team fairly well, but one couldn’t overlook their disjointed attack caused by poor catch-and-pass episodes, nor the inability to clear their 22 under pressure.
Another error happened after the second Aussie goal when they dropped the restart kick. From the scrum the Aussies didn’t have the experience to deal with being a back short on defence and NZ winger Losi Filipo finished perfectly in the corner from the set piece. Aleuia converted the try with a difficult kick from touch.
Half time score NZ Barbarians 20 – Australia 9.
Australia played fresher after the break but they blew another chance when they got close to the NZ line only to be dominated at the breakdown. This happened a bit in the first half but it became more noticeable the longer play went on.
At last Fulivai ran the ball out of the Aussie half and popped it up from the ground to 13 Ned Yeomans backing up. He dished to Summerhayes who was pulled down short, but from a ruck Fulivai ran diagonally in front of some shocked Kiwi tacklers to score.
After Goddard added the extras, NZ lead 20-16, 13 minutes into the second half.
But when the Aussies cleared after the kick-off, NZ attacked and a grubber kick pin-balled back into their hands. Makene scored between the sticks after backing up well. Aleuia made the score 27-16 with 20 minutes remaining.
It got worse when NZ blew the Aussies off their ball yet again when a promising move was on. NZ reserve scrummie Lisati Milo-Harris punished the mistake with a cracking box kick which bounced nicely into the hands of 11 Shelford Murray, who beat Loga-Tarogi coming from the other wing, to score under the posts.
The conversion by Leuia made the tally 34-16 to NZ with 16 minutes left
After the kick-off the Aussies got a scrum in the middle of the 22 and had to score from the position but they made an unforced error.
But with their next chance, and the Aussie scrum in trouble, 9. Harrison Goddard kept the ball and blitzed defenders to score. There were no extras and NZ led by 34-21.
Just before the end NZ started a rolling maul on their side of half-way, got the planned penalty kick and from the lineout 5 Paripari Parkinson scored after some pick and goes.
Final score NZ Barbarians Schools 39 – Australian Schools 21
New Zealand Barbarians had none of the top 23 Kiwi schoolboy players in their matchday team yet Australia had 20 in theirs including five starters who also ran-on against Fiji in the test match a few days before.
They are to be congratulated in how they capitalised on a one man advantage, especially on transition when the Aussies were slow to react.
They weren’t bothered much in scrums and their lineout was dominant with their three giraffes. They made errors but they were commanding at the breakdown and were able to hold up Aussie mauls in “choke tackles” on most attempts.
Australia did well considering they were affected by the loss of one player for virtually the whole match and didn’t have the experience or practised quick reactions to cope with it, especially when they turned the ball over and were exposed at the back.
However, they didn’t help their cause by being out-muscled when numbered-up, nor by making so many unforced errors with ball in hand, nor from having a poor lineout, nor by lacking urgency getting to the contests.
The imbalance of the side with no “on-baller” nor an alternative flyhalf, was telling.
New Zealand Barbarians
3. Isaia Walker-Leawere (4) – The 200 cms lock was more than just tall timber because he was rugged in the tight stuff and one of the strongest guys on the park.
2. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (8) – A goer: ran hard and over some Aussies who were standing around.
1. Sione Asi (3) – Solid in the scrum and tough in the tight stuff with and without the ball.
A special mention to 22 Luther Hirini who was called in late to the NZ team. There is a bit of Nanai-Williams in this lad.
3. Jordan Fulivai (15) – Played a heroic game which must have inspired his teammates. Would have hated to see the depleted team play without him.
2. Harrison Goddard (9) – Not the strongest defensive game today but cleared the ball well from the ruck and showed his winger’s speed to score.
1. Ned Yeomans (13) – The late call-up to the touring party had a strong match and was hard to bring down.
The Aussie coaching staff will be in a quandary with their back-up flyhalf likely to be suspended. I recommend that they fly Jack McGregor over to cover 10 and 15.
This Kiwi team played well but they were well below the standard of a NZ test side. It was not comforting to see 20 of our test players in the 23 not firing too many shots, even taking into account having one player fewer on the park.
Of more concern was when the probable Aussie Ones tight five came on and didn’t make the expected impact in even contests.
Too harsh? I hope so.
New Zealand Barbarians 39 (L. Filipo, D. Leuila, C. Makene, P. Parkinson, S. Murray tries; Leuila 2 pens, 4 cons) def. Australian Schools 21 (H. Goddard, J. Fulivai tries; Goddard 3 pens, con).