The curtain closed on the 2019 schoolboy season with a win and a loss for the New Zealand teams in Hamilton today.
The New Zealand Schools team suffered their first defeat at the hands of Australia Schools since 2012, while the Barbarian Schools team got a win over Fiji Schools.
The New Zealand Barbarians Schools team recorded an impressive 52-22 win over Fiji Schools to open the day.
The New Zealand Barbarian Schools came out of the blocks firing, scoring the opening three tries.
An intelligent kicking game from second five-eighths Tepaea Cook-Savage had the Barbarians playing in the right area of the field and Jermaine Pepe (Rangiora High School), Etonia Bainivalu (St Bede’s College) and captain Hakaraia Richards-Coxhead (Hamilton Boys’ High School) all benefited with tries.
Fiji struck back midway through the half in what was their first genuine attacking opportunity, but the Barbarians extended their lead just before the break courtesy of a Julian Goerke (Hasting Boys’ High School) try.
Leading 26-5 at the break, the New Zealand Barbarian Schools team ran in four second half tries, with James Brown (King’s College), Dayton Iobu (King’s College) and Latrell Smiler-Ah Kiong (Hastings Boys’ High School) and Jona Mataiciwa (Saint Kentigern College) contributing to the score line.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, Fiji crossed for three tries, the final score 52-22.
New Zealand Barbarian Schools coach Gus Leger said it was a great result to finish their campaign.
“We tried to keep things simple but do them well and to be able to do that today was pretty special. The players were able to show their individual skill but also showed their connection and played well together as a team,” said Leger.
The New Zealand Schools team were put under pressure by an impressive Australia Schools & Under 18 outfit, the Australian team dominating possession and showing strength at the breakdown to get out to a 12-0 halftime lead.
Australian hooker Billy Pollard had the crowd on their feet with an intercept effort that saw him run the length of the field only to be tackled at the try line by Meihana Grindlay and lose the ball over the line.
The score extended to 18-0 in Australia's favour with two penalties early in the second spell.
New Zealand Schools got on the scoreboard late in the game, courtesy of flanker Cam Church (Saint Kentigern College) who tip-toed down the side-line to score in the corner.
With late territory and possession New Zealand closed the gap further with a try to Dom Gardiner (St Bede's College).
It was too little too late though as Australia wound down the clock to win 18-14.
Coach Mark Hammet said it was disappointing not to get the win.
“In the first half our game management wasn’t great. We got into two minds and we didn’t end up kicking or carrying well.
“In the second half we started playing with the intent we wanted to but in the end we ran out of time. Absolutely we wanted to win but these fixtures and campaigns are also about developing a group of players and their skillset and we are really proud of the boys and where they got too,” said Hammett.
The annual Rugby News Jerry Collins Memorial Bronze Boot will be awarded to a player from each of the New Zealand Schools and Australia Schools & Under 18 at a function this evening.
New Zealand Barbarian Schools 52 (Jermaine Pepe, Etonia Bainivalu, Hakaraia Richards-Coxhead, Julian Goerke, James Brown, Dayton Iobu, Latrell Smiler-Ah Kiong, Jona Mataiciwa tries, Tepaea Cook-Savage 6 con)
Fiji Schools 22
New Zealand Schools 14 (Cam Church, Dom Gardiner tries, Aidan Morgan, Ollie Lewis con)
Australia Schools & Under 18 18