Junior All Blacks too good for Tonga

Photosport     10 Jun 2007     Photosport

Heading into the match on the back of sizzling wins over both Samoa and Fiji, the Junior All Blacks appeared to struggle early in the afternoon.

Making untimely errors throughout the first half, the visitors trailed 3-10 for most of the opening 40 minutes courtesy of two tries to Tongan fullback Vungakoto Lilo.

However, a late Ross Filipo try in the 32nd minute added a degree of respectability to the score before Lilo slotted over a penalty after the siren to give the hosts a 13-10 lead.

Coming out after the break, the fitness of Tonga's players came to the fore and before long the Junior All Blacks began to find their feet.

Scoring early in the second half, Derren Witcombe clawed the Junior All Blacks into the lead for the first time and from there four further unanswered tries ensured a convincing victory.

Failing to secure the ball from the opening kick-off, the Junior All Blacks immediately found themselves under the pump as Tonga retrieved the ball and charged within inches of the line.

However, some strong defence from the visitors proved to be the difference and the first onslaught was eventually quelled.

The hosts continued to assert dominance over the Junior All Blacks throughout the opening half and in the 12th minute Tongan fullback Lilo latched onto a pass out wide to easily coast over the line and score the opening try.

Trailing 0-5, the Junior All Blacks replied four minutes later when first five-eighths Stephen Brett slotted over a simple penalty goal.

Finally on the scoreboard, errors from the visitors continued to mount and scarcely a moment after the restart, fullback Cory Jane was unable to pull in a high kick and Lilo was on the spot to dot down for his second try of the afternoon.

With time running out in the opening half and the Junior All Blacks desperate to sniff out their first try of the afternoon, they were rewarded when Filipo crossed the chalk in the 32nd minute.

Opting to kick for touch rather than take an easy three-points, skipper Marty Holah's decision soon paid dividends when the towering lock burrowed under a maul to score. Brett then slotted over the conversion to square the scores.

But with the halftime siren less than 30 seconds away, Tonga continued to attack inside the Junior All Blacks' half and following a late penalty, Lilo slotted over the goal to give his side a 13-10 lead at the break.

Moments after the restart, Witcombe put the visitors ahead for the first time in the match after diving onto a little chip kick to give his side a four-point buffer.

Leading for the first time in the afternoon, the Junior All Blacks' chances of victory were then significantly boosted in the 49th minute when Tongan skipper Nili Latu was sin-binned for a professional foul.

Down to 14 men, Tonga was quickly overwhelmed by the visitors and scarcely a moment later Holah burrowed over for his side's third try of the afternoon.

Coming on early in the second half after warming the bench in the first 40 minutes, Tane Tu’ipulotu also had an immediate impact for the Junior All Blacks with a well-worked try in the 57th minute.

Gaining momentum with every passing moment, Anthony Tuitavake, latching onto a pass from Jane in the 63rd minute, then crossed the line for his side's fifth try, before Scott Hamilton sealed the result with another five-pointer out wide in the 75th minute.

Junior All Blacks 39
Tries: Filipo, Witcombe, Holah, Tu'ipulotu, Tuitavake, Hamilton
Conversions: Brett 3
Penalty: Brett

Tonga 13
Tries: V Lilo 2
Penalty: V Lilo