The action-packed final capped a week of on and off-field development for the eight competing teams with New Zealand’s five Super Rugby club U20s squads joined by the New Zealand Barbarians, Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua.
Coached by Steven Bates, the Blues were the stand-out team over three match days, scoring 50 or more points in all three of their matches against the Fijian Drua (51-7), the New Zealand Barbarians (51-26) and the Hurricanes in the final.
Recent All Blacks Sevens star and outside back Caleb Tangitau was a key figure for the Blues including two tries of his side’s seven in the final, while hooker Valentino Taito also grabbed a brace, and first five Byron Smith scored 20 points with a try, six conversions and a penalty.
The Hurricanes were not without their own stand out players with lock Hunter Morrison grabbing two tries in the final, and first-five Harry Godfrey awarded the Sir John Graham Player of the Tournament award.
The score belied a competitive final match that was still in the balance late into the second half before Blues openside Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo scored off the back of a scum to put the match out of the Hurricanes reach in the 74th minute.
Bunnings Warehouse Super Rugby U20 FINAL scorers:
Blues 50 (Valentino Taito (2), Caleb Tangitau (2), Leo Gordon, Byron Smith, Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo tries; Byron Smith 6 con, pen). Hurricanes 36 (Hunter Morrison (2), Toby Crosby, Jordi Viljoen, Vernon Bason tries; Harry Godrey, 3 con, pen, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula con). HT: 19-10 Blues
New Zealand Rugby High Performance Player Development Manager Matt Sexton said the third edition of the annual tournament had raised the bar on and off the field with the teams assembled from Saturday 18 March through to Sunday 26 March.
“It’s been a great week for players, coaches, referees and management teams. The addition of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika added new styles and structures of play and you could see the growth and development of players in all eight teams through the week. We introduced the finals format for the first time, and I think that also brought out the best in the players and replicated the competitive environment they can expect at the next level.
“There is some great talent coming through in New Zealand and across the Pacific region and undoubtedly many of these young men will go on to higher honours in the coming seasons.”
Sexton also highlighted the wider development benefits of the week-long tournament.
“We were fortunate to have some members of the current All Blacks coaching team address the group as well as current and former professional players. The sort of information and guidance received during the week will be valuable to these young men as they go on in rugby and life.”
2023 Bunnings Warehouse Super Rugby U20 Results:
Location: Owen Delany Park, Taupō
Pool 1: Blues, Crusaders, Fijian Drua, New Zealand Barbarians Under 21
Pool 2: Chiefs, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Moana Pasifika
Match Day 1 | Sunday 19 March
11.05am Fijian Drua 7 v Blues 51
12.55pm Hurricanes 64 v Moana Pasifika 19
2.45pm Crusaders 27 v New Zealand Barbarians 35
4.35pm Highlanders 28 v Chiefs 18
Match Day 2 | Wednesday 22 March
11.05am Fijian Drua 22 v Crusaders 50
12.55pm Moana Pasifika 20 v Chiefs 52
2.45pm Semi-Final 1: Blues 51 v NZ Barbarians 26
4.35pm Semi-Final 2: Hurricanes 36 v Highlanders 26
Match Day 3 | Saturday 25 March
11.05am 7th/8th Play-off – Fijian Drua 33 v Moana Pasifika 26
12.55pm 5th/6th Play-off – Crusaders 29 v Chiefs 31
2.45pm 3rd/4th Play-off – NZ Barbarians 22 v Highlanders 41
4.35pm Super Rugby Under 20 Final - Blues 50 v Hurricanes 36