Juniors seal second Pacific Nations Cup

Photosport     17 Jun 2007     Photosport

Junior All Blacks coaches, Colin Cooper and Ian Foster, made six changes to the line-up that started against Tonga in the previous round.

Lock Hoani MacDonald returned from injury, with Jerome Kaino and Sione Lauaki taking over at blindside and No. 8 respectively.

Andrew Ellis got the nod at halfback, with Stephen Donald at first five-eighths and Ma'a Nonu at centre.

Meanwhile, Australia A included Reds prop Rodney Blake - returning after surgery – No. 8 David Lyons, first five-eighths Sam Norton-Knight and wing Cameron Shepherd in its run-on fifteen.

With both sides unbeaten, the Junior All Blacks (15 pts) led Australia by one point going into what was effectively the deciding game - and a number of individuals on both sides playing for World Cup selection, something had to give.

Donald opened the scoring for New Zealand with a penalty following a lineout infringement on three minutes.

The Junior All Blacks added a try on 10 minutes when prop John Afoa turned the ball over at a maul on his own line and Donald ran the length of the field virtually unopposed.

With the Australian defence again largely missing in action, lock Tom Donnelly added a second try for New Zealand on 17 minutes when he rounded off a neat attacking movement to cross in the corner.

Now in complete command, the Junior All Blacks added a third try on 22 minutes when Lauaki stripped the ball from Aussie full back Peter Hewat and drove over from close range.

Australia A's woes continued when prop Nic Henderson was sin-binned after 26 minutes.

Right wing Scott Hamilton took New Zealand even further ahead when he crossed under the posts having exposed some very average Aussie defence. Donald added the extras.

Left wing Anthony Tuitavake wrapped up an outstanding first 40 for the Kiwis with a brilliant piece of finishing for a try number five in the corner.

Donald nailed the conversion from the touch line to make it 38-0 at halftime.

Playing for little more than pride, Australia A stemmed the black tide for most of the third quarter until the distinctive figure of Junior All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu out-paced both opposing wingers to score in the corner.

Nonu opened the Australians up again two minutes later and replacement flanker Daniel Braid finished off from close range on 62 minutes.

The usual raft of substitutes appeared midway through the second period and inevitably the Junior All Blacks lost some rhythm, which may just have spared Australia A from an even bigger hiding.

The depth in New Zealand rugby is no secret but the more interesting questions posed by this one-way encounter are around the long-term health of an Australian game that is already under pressure at senior level.

Scorers: Junior All Blacks 50 (Stephen Donald, Tom Donnelly, Sione Lauaki, Anthony Tuitavake, Scott Hamilton, Ma'a Nonu and Daniel Braid tries; Donald 6 con, pen)

Australia A 0

HT: 38-0