New Zealand U20s kicked off their Oceania Rugby Junior Championbship campaign in style with a 75-0 win against Japan on the Gold Coast of Australia on Saturday, a day later than scheduled after severe weather had forced the matches to be postponed.
New Zealand posted 10 tries in total - six before half-time and four after the break - and coach Scott Robertson was pleased with the way his side clinically went about their work in attack.
“We were very happy that the sun’s out, we wouldn’t have played like that yesterday (Friday) with the conditions. It was a great start for us and there was a patch in the middle where they tested us which was great," said former All Black Robertson.
It took New Zealand five minutes to cross the try line with full-back Luteru Laulala going over after the ball had been spread wide. Otre Black added the coversion.
Black proceeded to convert the next five tries - through winger Sean Wainui (2), Vincent Tavae-aso, TJ Faiane and Mitchell Karpik - in a flawless display of first-half goal-kicking.
Leading 42-0 at half-time at Bond University, New Zealand came under pressure from a much-improved Japan in the first 15 minutes after the break. Despite their best efforts, though, Japan were unable to find the elusive score and they were punished when New Zealand added two more tries in quick succession, with Karpik scoring his second and replacement Mitchell Dunshea following him over the line.
As the Japanese defence tired New Zealand continued to pile on points with number eight Blake Gibson and centre Anton Lienert-Brown getting their names on the scoresheet.
Australia overcome stubborn Samoa
Australia U20s got off to a satisfactory start against Samoa, who they will meet again in June at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy.
The tournament hosts scored four tries to Samoa’s two to win 33-10 as the Australian backs capitalised on an impressive effort to contain the Samoan forwards.
“It was a good first half, it got scrappy in the second half, but I’m happy with the effort in the first half," said Australia coach Adrian Thompson
"Our forwards did well, I think Samoa have put in a lot of resources into their programme this year and they were a lot better than they were at this stage last year. I think they will be a big challenge when we play them in the first game at the World Championships.”
It didn’t take long for the Australian side to cross the line with number eight Lolo Fakosilea crossing for his side's first try from quick turnover ball. Australia continued to attack Samoa in their own half and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts, which fly-half Andrew Deegan converted to take the score to 8-0.
Australia’s early dominance was rewarded further when Christian Yassmin was the beneficiary of some great hands by the backs with captain Andrew Kellaway sending the ball wide to Yassmin, who crossed for the third try to make it 15-0 with the conversion from Deegan.
Samoa then surprised Australia with a quick penalty and they broke through some weak tackles with Trent Winterstein crossing in the corner to take the score to 15-5.
However, another penalty by Deegan and a try to flying flanker, Australian Sevens squad member Brad Wilkin took Australia’s lead to 23-5 at half-time.
The second half saw Australia continue to control the game against their Pacific opponents but the Samoans became harder to break down.
Yassmin eventually scored his second try of the match as the Australian backs benefited from the hard work of the forwards. Deegan converted to take the score to 30-5.
Despite more pressure from Australia, Samoa held firm and countered with some excellent play of their own and they got just reward when winger Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano crossed in the corner to take the score to 30-10, before a late penalty for Australia.
The Oceania Rugby Junior Championship is being used by all four teams to fine-tune their preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy from 2-20 June. The action will continue on Tuesday when New Zealand face Samoa and Australia tackle Japan with the matches streamed live on www.rugby.com.au.
Oceania Rugby Championship fixtures and results
New Zealand 75-0 Japan
Australia 33-10 Samoa
13:00 - Samoa v New Zealand
15:00 - Japan v Australia
13:00 - Samoa v Japan
15:00 - Australia v New Zealand
All times local