New Zealand were the more clinical of the two unbeaten sides on Tuesday, running in 12 tries in a commanding 80-23 victory over Samoa before hosts Australia edged Fiji 32-24.
Craig Philpott had made 13 changes to his starting line-up from the side that beat Fiji 63-3 four days earlier, but there was no lack of synergy from New Zealand at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
They were lethal on the counter-attack with seven first-half tries giving them an unassailable 47-6 advantage at half-time against Samoa, who will join their conquerors and Australia at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 in Georgia later this month.
Winger Caleb Clarke was a real handful, scoring one try himself and playing a key role in a number of other tries for New Zealand with captain Luke Jacobson among the other scorers.
Samoa, who return to the World Rugby U20 Championship after winning the U20 Trophy last year, were more competitive in the second half after making a number of changes and crossed for two tries through Alex Pohia and captain Losi Filipo.
Australia will need to up their game by several notches if they are to trouble New Zealand on Saturday after a disjointed performance against Fiji.
Efitusi Maafu scored two of his side’s four tries and Harry Nucifora kicked 12 points, but a series of handling errors and issues with the set piece left head coach Simon Cron far from impressed.
“We are very disappointed with the performance we put out on the park tonight,” he said.
“We tried a few new things today in terms of the playing group but patterns haven’t changed from what we played the other day. It was a team of individuals out there."
Australia captain Reece Hewat scored the first points of the match when he dived over the line in the ninth minute for a try which Nucifora converted to give the boys in green and gold a 7-0 lead.
Fiji were a significantly improved outfit from the side that fell to New Zealand in the opening round of the Championship, with the Pacific Islanders dominating possession and territory throughout the first half.
However, they were unable to break through Australia’s defence and after Nucifora had added a further three points from the kicking tee, Australia scored against the run of play through Maafu to establish a 15-0 lead.
Fiji’s efforts were finally rewarded though when Dulaki Vukatvo slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
The second half saw Fiji shoot out of the blocks with a try to Salimoni Tukania as they capitalised on the momentum they had earned in the first half, taking the score to 15-10.
But with their superior fitness starting to tell, Australia moved out of sight at 32-10 after a further penalty from Nucifora was followed by Maafu’s second score of the match and a try from Theo Strang.
A couple of late injuries saw Australia finish the game with 13 men and Fiji capitalised to score two tries through Luke Tagi and Apisalome Bogidrau to take the final score to 32-24.
Australia photo credit: Oceania Rugby/Sportography