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Emphatic wins for Australia and New Zealand U20s
Defending champions New Zealand and tournament hosts Australia enjoyed emphatic victories on day one of the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship 2019.
New Zealand and Australia piled on the points on the opening day of the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship with commanding wins against Fiji and Japan at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Reigning champions New Zealand beat 14-man Fiji 53-7 but the Islanders, who are set to make their return to the World Rugby U20 Championships in just over a month's time, can take a lot of encouragement from the way they matched the number one seeds until having a man sent off early in the second half.
Meanwhile, in the second match of the day, Australia ran in 10 tries, the first coming with barely a minute on the clock, to win 64-14.
NEW ZEALAND U20 53-7 FIJI U20
New Zealand extended their winning run at the Oceania Rugby U20 Championships to seven matches against 14-man Fiji.
Coach Craig Philpott will be pleased with the way the set-piece went in a match that swung their way once Fiji lost wing Epeli Momo to a red card minutes into the second half for a dangerous tackle on New Zealand half-back Leroy Carter.
At that point, New Zealand only led 15-7 having scored tries through wing Sam Gilbert and centre Quinn Tupaea with Ilaisa Droasese scoring in between for the Islanders following brilliant interplay from Kaminieli Rasaku and Veresa Ramototabua.
Fiji U20 head coach Kele Leawere had spoken about discipline as being a key work-on in the build-up to the Oceania event and Momo's indiscretion suggests there is still room for improvement.
Fiji did not let their heads drop though, and fought manfully with 14 men, and with a little more composure near the try line, they could have easily have reduced the deficit but New Zealand stayed strong in defence to force turnovers.
Tries from flanker Samipeni Finau and Leroy Carter took the match away from Fiji before New Zealand demonstrated their ruthless streak in the final quarter, crossing the line on four more occasions.
Winger Lalomilo Lalomilo started the spree which included a second for Tupaea and further scores for replacement hooker Shilo Klein and second-rower Tupou Va'ai.
"It was a good game for the boys - getting a hit out against Fiji. I don’t really think the score reflects the nature of the game – you know they came out strong – they had us on our feet," said New Zealand U20 captain Kianu Kereru-Symes.
AUSTRALIA U20 64-14 JAPAN U20
Captain Fraser McReight and debutant winger Mark Nawaqanitawase scored a brace of trie apiece as the Junior Wallabies opened their Oceania campaign in style against a Japan side who played true to type in attempting to move the ball whenever possible.
The Junior Wallabies scored 10 tries in total, seven of them converted by fly-half Will Harrison whose understanding with fellow half-back Henry Robertson bodes well for the World Rugby U20 Championships in Argentina in June.
Triston Reilly, one of many newcomers in the Australian ranks, got the host nation off to a dream start, crossing the line with barely a minute gone.
The tries kept coming for Australia, with Nawaqanitawase, Noah Lolesio, Harry Wilson and McReight adding their names to the scoresheet as the Junior Wallabies opened up a 31-0 lead at a rate of a point a minute.
An intercept try from Tomoki Osada - the first of three scored on the night - gave Japan some temporary respite but Australia closed out the half with another try, scored by hooker Lachlan Lonergan.
A barnstorming run by prop Angus Bell paved the way for Robertson to score the first try of the second half before McReight got his double approaching the hour-mark.
Despite the one-sided nature of the scoreline, Japan's scrum showed up well throughout and Osada scored his second of the match after the forwards put down another solid attacking platform.
Nawaqanitawase added a second try, while replacement Sione Tui also got in on the act as Australia finished the game with 14 men having suffered a late injury after previously using up all their replacements.
“The first half was bit of a grind but we knew points would come if we stuck to our game plan,” said McReight.
Australia meet Fiji in their second game of the tournament next Tuesday and Japan play New Zealand.
Photo: Stuart Walmsley