New Zealand Rugby League have named their New Zealand Resident 16s side to take on the Maori Rugby League 17s later this month.
The 18-strong squad will set out to follow in the footsteps of Steven Marsters and Chanel Harris-Tavita who were instrumental in the NZ Resident 16s team that last took to the field in 2014, both of whom went on to play for the Junior Kiwis.
These players have been identified as the best talent at 16s level from across New Zealand.
To watch the live stream of the game follow the @NZLeague Facebook page.
NZ Resident 16s v NZ Maori 17s
Rotorua, Puketewhero Park
NZ Resident 16s team:
Akarana: Christian Tuipulotu, Jyris Glaumuzina, Nathaneal Sasagi, Temple Kalepo, Jona Polota-Kopa, Junior Tuleisu; Counties: Aamon Dean, Brian Lealiifano, Diaz Taihia, Kaya Cuthers, Marco Talagi, Semisi Tapa, Xavier Stevens-Teo; Southern: Caius Fa’atili, Griffin Neame, Leroy Ferguson; Upper Central: Rayna Whakaari; Auckland Vulcans: Caleb Pese
First Published on NZRL.co.nz
St Paul's College continue to set the pace in the SAS College Rugby League premier division and sit atop the secondary schools competition ladder following their 22-4 win over Mt Albert Grammar School at Grey Lynn Park yesterday (Wednesday July 5, 2017).
The defending champions have had a successful campaign so far, winning three of their four games played in the championship rounds with one draw against traditional foes, Kelston Boys (12 all).
Mt Albert have had just one win in the championship division and sit fourth on the ladder behind Kelston and Southern Cross.
It was a game fought largely in the middle of the park which took 12 minutes for points to be scored.
A dart from close range gave St Paul's hooker Lewis Sio the opening try. Halfback Jaelin Murray converted to lead 6-0.
Mt Albert displayed some gritty defence, but eventually the repeated sets wore them down allowing the home side to cross for another two to take an 18-0 lead at the break.
Settling into the second half, all the momentum sat with St Paul's which saw second rower Christian Tuipulotu storm over for another. The kick went wide leaving it at 22-0.
Finally holding onto the ball and making use of their edges, some simple passing out wide gave Mt Albert centre Kayal Iro the opportunity to score. An unsuccessful conversion left them trailing 4-22.
With 10 minutes left on the clock there was still time to add to the board, but the wet and windy conditions left both sides unsettled with ball control leaving St Paul's to claim a 22-4 victory at full time.
St Paul's College 22 (Mike Williams, Antonio Aufai, Lewis Sio, Christian Tuipulotu tries; Jaelin Murray x3 goals) Mt Albert 4 (Kayal Iro x1 tries) HT: 18-0.
In other games, Kelston Boys took care of Papatoetoe 40-0. Avondale edged past Wesley 26-18 in the Plate division, while Papakura and Pakuranga had successful wins over Lynfield (16-6) and James Cook (22-10) in the Senior A grade.
For fixtures and ladders click here. *Please note these are subject to entry by College Sport.
St Paul's 22 Mt Albert 4 HT: 18-0
Kelston Boys 40 Papatoetoe 0 HT: 16-0
Southern Cross 30 Aorere 0 (by default)
Western Springs 30 Manurewa 0 (by default)
Avondale 26 Wesley 18
Westlake Boys bye
Lynfield 6 Papakura 16 HT: 6-12
James Cook 10 Pakuranga 22 HT: 6-6
Sir Edmund Hilalry 18 Avondale 24 HT: 4-12
St Paul's v Southern Cross TBA
Manurewa v Aorere (default)
Onehhunga v Henderson (default)
The 2017 New Zealand 16s wider squad to play the NZ Maori 17s next month was announced today.
The team last played in 2014 against Samoa in what was a tightly contested match with the NZ Residents coming out on top with a 32 – 26 victory. The 2014 16s team featured 14 players who are now with NRL clubs including young talent Steve Marsters and Chanel Harris-Tavita who both went on to earn a spot in the Junior Kiwis this year.
New Zealand Resident 16s Head Coach, Andrew Auimatagi says “I’m really excited about the talent we have named in the wider training squad for this representative season.
“We have selected players from right across the country who have impressed us in the early stages of their playing careers and who will be working hard to ensure they are named in the final team to play the NZ Maori 17s in late July.
“As it will be the first time for many wearing the New Zealand jersey, it is important for us (as staff) to teach the players about what it means to take those first steps on our representative pathway,” he says.
The re-introduction of this anticipated match into the NZRL calendar is something New Zealand Rugby League’s National Talent Manager, David McMeeken believes will strengthen the pathways for young rugby league players.
“The return of this fixture is a great opportunity for the boys with aspirations to play for their country – it also adds a lot of prestige to the occasion.
“This game will be a challenging and competitive fixture as our NZ 16s gear up to face a strong NZ Maori 17s team, many of whom are also boys that have been through the NZRL pathways,” he says.
The final squad of 18 will be named on 5 July to play in Rotorua at Puketewhero Park on July 22 against the NZ Maori 17s.
2017 New Zealand Resident 16s Wider Training Squad:
Akarana: Christian Tuipulotu, Eteru Ropati, Jyris Glamuzina, Nathanael Sasagi, Temple-Olympia Kalepo, Tuinamo Tepulolo, Jona Palota-Kopa, Keanu Ratumairavuki, Junior Tuileisu; Counties: Aamon Dean, Brian Lealiifano, Diaz Tahia, Kaya Cuthers, Marco Talagi, Semisi Tapa, Xavier Stevens-Teo; Mid Central: Jamie Robertson; Northland: Kiarn Reihana-Ngatoki; Southern: Caius Faatili, Griffin Neame, Leroy Ferguson; Upper Central: Albert Talakai, Ceiza James, Rayna Whakaari; Auckland Vulcans: Caleb Pese, Sione Moala, Soaki Taufa; Wellington: Ilai Tuai, Wyatt So'otaga
(NOTE: as per their last represented zone)
The 2016 SAS College Rugby League runners up Wesley College have fallen short of securing a spot in the championship division of the secondary schools competition this year, kneeling 12-10 to Aorere in the final game of pool play on Wednesday June 7.
With Kelston already through to the next round and Aorere sitting in second position of their pool, Wesley needed to win if they had any chance of making the championship rounds.
Wesley dominated the early exchanges of the game.
Camping deep in the oppositions territory, the home side stormed over for two tries to take a 10-4 lead at the break.
But Aorere's response was perfect.
Gaining plenty of early yardage in the second half, the visitors harassed the fading forwards to score and set up another lifting Aorere to 12 points.
Wesley had the opportunity to score again, but Aorere repeatedly pinned their opponents frustrating them to fundamental errors.
With the siren going in the background and only metres from their line, Wesley had one last chance to take the lead, but Aorere's patience and discipline couldn't be denied edging past Wesley 12-10 at fulltime.
Aorere 12 (Falani Pokino, Xavier Stevens, JB Vave Bulu tries) Welsey 10 (Sam Havili, Taniela Prescott tries; Larenz Tupaea x1 goal).
In other games, Kelston kept their undefeated streak to ensure top qualification from Pool B with a 30-10 victory over Papatoetoe.
Mt Albert performed admirably against perennial heavyweights St Paul's staying in the contest for the full 50 minutes to win 10-8 in Pool A, while Westlake went down 32-8 to Southern Cross ending their hopes of championship progression.
The premiership pools now split into Championship and Plate competitions (refer to attached draw for both divisions).
Kelston, Aorere, Southern Cross, St Paul's, Papatoetoe and Mt Albert will play in the Championship grade while Manurewa, Wesley, Westlake, Avondale and Western Springs play for the Plate.
For fixtures and ladders click here. *Please note these are subject to entry by College Sport.
Premier Pool A
St Paul’s 8 Mt Albert 10 HT: 4-6
Westlake Boys 8 Southern Cross 32 HT: 0-18
Premier Pool B
Wesley 10 Aorere 12 HT: 10-4
Manurewa 30 Western Springs 0 (by default)
Papatoetoe 10 Kelston Boys 30 HT: 0-30
Selwyn 16 Pakuranga 18 HT: 8-6
Aorere B 12 Sir Edmund Hillary 24 HT: TBA
Southern Cross 24 Papakura 6 HT: TBA
James Cook 22 Lynfield 14 HT: 10-6
Westlake Boys bye
St Paul’s 48 Aorere 18
Manurewa 56 Onehunga 14
Avondale 12 Southern Cross 56
Sir Edmund Hillary 36 Henderson 12
The 16s and 18s merit teams have been named from results at this month's NZRL National High Performance Camp at St Peter’s School in Cambridge.
Players selected in these merit teams are rewarded for their stand-out performances at the National High Performance Camp trials last week. A high percentage of these players will make up the core of the NZ 16s and 18s teams to be selected later this year.
Otahuhu’s Semisi Tapa was named 16s Best and Fairest Player after a solid defensive game and scoring in Team Kahu’s 48-16 win over Team Johnson in the first match, while Israel Ogden from Mangere East took home 18s Best and Fairest Player despite his team (Bromwich) losing to Team Blair 46-22 in the 18s match-up.
"It's a massive accomplishment to be recognised as one of the best players in the country," says NZRL Talent Development Manager David McMeeken.
"Hopefully, their selection, along with the lessons they take away from the camp, will provide these players with a stepping stone towards future international and professional careers.
"At this level, whenever you step out on the field, there's always someone watching."
The merit teams are:
NZRL National High Performance Camp Awards 2017:
18s Best & Fairest player – Israel Ogden (Counties)
16s Best & Fairest player – Semisi Tapa (Counties)
Passion award – Brad Campbell (Southern)
Courage award – Xavier Stevens-Teo (Counties)
Leadership award – Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana)
Respect award – Samuel Kamu (Akarana)
Integrity award – Caius Faatili (Southern)
Originally posted by NZRL
Junior Kiwis Head Coach Nathan Cayless has named his team to take on the Junior Kangaroos in next week’s ANZAC Test in Canberra.
Among the players selected for the May 5 Test is Chanel Harris-Tavita who was named 2016 NZRL 18s Player of the Year and 2016 Junior Warriors Rookie of the year.
Harris-Tavita is one of twelve who will debut for the Junior Kiwis and also one of many who have come through the New Zealand Rugby League pathways and attended the annual National High Performance Camp.
Cayless says he is confident the team has what it takes to be competitive against the Junior Kangaroos.
Five players from last year’s Junior Kiwis squad return for the side this year including Isaiah Papali’i, Reimis Smith, Patrick Herbert, Greg Leleisiuao and Siosifa Talakai.
Both Talakai and Papali’i have already made their first-grade NRL debuts, Talakai in 2016 for the Rabbitohs and Papali’i in the opening match of the 2017 season for the Warriors.
2017 Junior Kiwis ANZAC Test squad:
Briton Nikora (debut) (Cronulla Sharks), Caleb Fuimaono (debut) (North Queensland Cowboys) Chanel Harris-Tavita (debut) (New Zealand Warriors), Dane Aukafolau (debut) (Paramatta Eels), Emry Pere (debut) (North Queensland Cowboys), Erin Clark (debut) (New Zealand Warriors), Fabien Puletua-Kiri (debut) (Canberra Raiders), Greg Leleisiuao (Paramatta Eels), Isaiah Papali'I (New Zealand Warriors), Jarome Luai (debut) (Penrith Panthers), Manase Fainu (debut) (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Moeaki Fotuaika (debut) (Gold Coast Titans), Patrick Herbert (St George Illawarra), Reimis Smith (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs) Sione Katoa (debut) (Cronulla Sharks), Siosifa Talakai (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sitili Tupouniua (Sydney Roosters), Steven Marsters (debut) (St George Illawarra).
Players selected to attend National High Performance Camp
Dillion Vale (Akarana, Albany Senior High, Waitemata, NZ Warriors),
Quinnlan Tupou (Akarana, Botany Downs College, Manurewa, NZ Warriors),
Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana, St Pauls, Ellerslie, NZ Warriors),
Tuinamo Teipulotu (Akarana, Waitemata, NZ Warriors),
Daylen Meredith (Akarana, Avondale College, Mt. Albert),
Jyris Glamuzina (Akarana, Sacred Heart College, Ellerslie, NZ Warriors),
Nathaneal Sasagi (Akarana, Mt Roskill Grammar, Ellerslie),
Samuel Kamu (Akarana, Mt Albert Grammar, Ellerslie, Newcastle Knights),
Soakai Taufa (Akarana, Mangere College, Otahuhu),
Temple Kalepo (Akarana, Kings College, Ellerslie, NZ Warriors),
Brian Lealifano (Counties, Sacred Heart, Otara),
David Aofi (Counties, Otahuhu College, Otahuhu),
Etuala Lui (Counties, Kings College, Otahuhu, Melbourne Storm),
Marco Talagi (Counties, Tangaroa College, Otara),
Talitua Salima Satuia (Counties, De La Salle College, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Xavier Teo-Stevens (Counties, Aorere College, Mangere East, NZ Warriors),
Aamon Dean (Counties, Saint Kentigerns College, Otahuhu, Melbourne Storm),
Keanu Mann (Counties, Papatoetoe High School, Mangere East),
Paea Fotu (Counties, Mangere East, NZ Warriors),
Sam Taunga (Counties, Aorere College, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Semisi Tapa (Counties, St Peters, Otahuhu),
Semisi Sekei (Counties, De La Salle College, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Jamie Lee Robertson (Mid Central, City College, Wanganui Boxon),
Tiaho Hamahona-Taiaroa (Mid Central, Wanganui High School, Wanganui Boxon),
Brooklyn Herewin (Mid Central, Manukura, Wanganui Boxon),
Manny Snooks (Northern, Whangarei Boys High, Portland, Canberra Raiders),
Caius Faatili (Southern, St Thomas of Canterbury, Hornby Panthers, North Queensland Cowboys),
Griffen Neame (Southern, Greymouth High School, Suburbs, North Queensland Cowboys),
Leroy Ferguson (Southern, Otago Boys High, Brisbane Broncos),
Manaia Edwards (Southern, Papanui High School, Papanui Tigers),
Trent Leach (Upper Central, Rotorua Boys High, Pikiao Warriors),
Jay Te Kani (Upper Central, Rotorua Boys High, Ngongotaha),
Rayna Whakaari (Upper Central, Rotorua Boys High, Pikiao Warriors, Sydney Roosters),
Taylor Leef (Upper Central, Hamilton Boys High, Hamilton City Tigers),
Albert Talakai (Upper Central, Westlake Boys High, Ellerslie, NZ Warriors),
Evandor Tererong (Wellington, Rongotai College, Porirua),
Fred Leaupepe Tema (Wellington, Naenae College, Randwick),
Ilai Tuai (Wellington, St Bernard’s College, Randwick),
Maui Wallace (Wellington, Tawa College, Porirua),
Wyatt So’otanga (Wellington, St Bernard’s College, Randwick).
Head Coach - Andrew Auimatagi (Southern)
Assistant Coach – Cody Walker (Akarana)
Manager – Tanya Harris (Counties)
Trainer – Lee Paru (Southern)
Head Coach – Pete Butler (Mid Central)
Assistant Coach – Eugene Davis (Upper Central)
Manager – Mel Mather (Southern)
Trainer – Jason Clarke (Auckland / Akarana)
Starford Toa (Akarana, St Pauls College, Richmond, Newcastle Knights),
Kayal Iro (Akarana, Mount Albert Grammar, Mount Albert Lions, NZ Warriors),
Matthew Timoko (Akarana, Auckland Grammar, Mt Wellington, South Sydney Rabbitohs),
Javvier Pitovao (Akarana, Mount Albert Grammar School, Point Chevalier Pirates, NZ Warriors),
Dredin McGee (Akarana, Building Apprentice, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Michael Lemafa (Akarana, Onehunga High School, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Lewis Afeaki (Akarana, Mt Albert, Sydney Roosters),
Talavou Gavet (Akarana, Kelston Boys High School, Richmond Rovers, NZ Warriors),
Joseph Onyeke (Akarana, Kelston Boys High School, Mt Albert, Canterbury Bulldogs),
Vito Tevaga (Akarana, Marcellin College, Richmond Rovers, Sydney Roosters),
Regan McClennan (Akarana, Orewa College, Mt Albert),
Marcel Connal (Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Aiden Aue (Akarana, Kelston Boys High School, Mt Albert),
Elijah Sufia (Akarana, Kelston Boys High School, New Lynn, NZ Warriors),
Dylan Tavita (Counties, St Pauls College, Richmond, NZ Warriors),
Taylor Fui (Counties, Otahuhu), Samiuela Lauhingoa (Counties, Southern Cross, Mangere East), Israel Ogden (Counties, Mangere East, NZ Warriors),
Uenuku Malesala (Counties, Mt Albert Grammar, Otahuhu, NZ Warriors),
Asu Kepaoa (Counties, Sacred Heart College, Richmond, Sydney Roosters),
Sione Ngahe (Counties, St Pauls College, Mt Albert Lions),
Keanu Paki (Counties, Howick, NZ Warriors),
Potusa Fuilala (Counties, Sacred Heart College, Otahuhu, Sydney Roosters),
Awatere Kiwara (Mid Central, Manakura, Kia Ora Warriors, Sydney Roosters)
Israel Moke (Mid Central, Kia Ora Warriors),
Te Kani Nathan (Northern, Kaitaia College, Hikurangi Stags),
Hoani Rogers-Brown (Northern / Akarana, Dargaville high School, Hikurangi Stags),
Daniel Sakisi (Southern, Shirley Boys High, Celebration Lions),
Jordan Riki (Southern, St Thomas of Canterbury, Hornby Panthers, Brisbane Broncos),
Seth Tauamiti (Southern, St Thomas of Canterbury, Papanui Tigers),
Chanel Feala (Southern, Shirley Boys High, Linwood Keas),
Brad Campbell (Southern, Greymouth High School, Suburbs West Coast),
Josh Rawiri (Southern, Shirley Boys High, Kaiapoi, Parramatta Eels),
Jope Tagicakabau (Southern, Riccarton Knights),
Liam Jones (Upper Central, Trident High School, Mataatua),
Sheldon Rogers (Upper Central, Tai Wananga, Turangawaewae, Sydney Roosters),
Jaedon Lyttle (Upper Central, Tokoroa High School, Taupo Phoenix),
Te Rautau Rameka (Upper Central, Tauponui a Tia College, Taupo Phoenix),
Tyler Jahnke (Wellington, Tawa College, Randwick Kingfishers),
William Rua (Wellington, Rongotai College, Randwick).
Head Coach – Moehewa Armstrong
Assistant Coach – Alan Ettles (Akarana)
Manager – Ben Vaipaata
Trainer – Marrin Haggie (Upper Central)
Head Coach – Phil Gordon (Akarana)
Assistant Coach - Tusa Lafaele (Counties)
Manager – Phil Roache(Wellington)
Trainer – Nick Le Comte (Southern)
NZ skipper Jesse Bromwich faces challenges from Melbourne Storm club-mate Tohu Harris and Dally M Medal winner Jason Taumalolo for the 2016 NZRL Kiwis Player of the Year.
Finalists have been selected in all 12 NZRL Awards categories, with winners to be announced at an Auckland function on January 20.
Bromwich (Kiwi # 775) took out the prestige award last year and has since risen to the post of national team captain, leading the Kiwis in six tests over the past 12 months. He was also named Melbourne Storm Player of the Year and Dally M Prop of the Year in the NRL competition.
Harris (Kiwi #778) continued to make himself an indispensable component of the Kiwis side, turning out in three different positions – centre, five-eighth and second row – and extending his career to 16 tests.
Taumalolo (Kiwi #786) really came of age in the NRL during 2016, sharing Dally M Medal honours with Storm playmaker Cooper Cronk, while taking out the lock award.
Canberra wing Jordan Rapana, club-mate Joseph Tapine and NZ Warriors centre Solomone Kata face off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year award, while another Kiwis newcomer, James Fisher-Harris, is in the mix for Junior Player of the Year.
Kiwi Ferns captain and twice previous winner Sarina Fiso will again contest Women’s Player of the Year, after leading the national team to victory over Australia at both the NRL Nines and mid-year test in Newcastle.
She faces competition from Georgia Hale, named MVP at both international events, and Krystal Rota, who was MVP of the NZ Maori Tournament and scored the winning try in the NZRL national women’s national final.
The full list of NZRL Awards finalists is:
Pirtek Female Volunteer – Alana Lockhorst (The Cooks/Southland RL), Nickie Tane (Mercury Bay Boars/Hauraki District), Dania Wood (Northern Wairoa Bulls)
Pirtek Male Volunteer – Tony Cuccurullo (Tasman RL), Jason Parata (Pikiao RL), Shane Price (Mt Wellington RL)
Grassroots Club – He Tauaa (Southland RL), Richmond Rabbits (Nelson RL), Takahiwai (Northland RL)
Domestic Coach – Andrew Auimatagi (Linwood Keas/Canterbury Bulls), Richie Blackmore (Papakura Sea Eagles), Rod Ratu (Counties Manukau Stingrays/NZ Residents/Southern Cross Campus)
Referee - Anthony Elliot, Chris McMillan, Shane Rehm
Domestic Player 16s – Taylor Fiu (Counties Manukau Stingrays), Jordan Riki (South Island Scorpions), Regan McClennan (Akarana Falcons)
Domestic Player 18s – Jesse Arthurs (Melbourne Storm), Chanel Harris-Tavita (NZ Warriors), Zae Wallace (Akarana Falcons)
Domestic Player Premier – Tevin Arona (Canterbury Bulls), Daniel Palavi (Akarana Falcons), Nick Read (Waikato)
Junior Player - James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers), Ata Hingano (NZ Warriors), Brandon Smith (North Queensland Cowboys)
Kiwis Rookie - Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors)
Women’s Player - Sarina Fiso (Counties Manukau Stingrays), Georgia Hale (Akarana Falcons), Krystal Rota (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
Kiwis Player – Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
Wainuiomata High School were beaten finalists in three of the seven years the premier Wellington college rugby league competition was run before this season. Even with the Umaga-Jensen twins they failed to win the top grade.
On Saturday Wainuiomata finally reached the summit in the capital. At Wise Park, Wainuiomata proved too smart for Wellington College winning 24-10.
Tanara Haenga is a prop forward and second rower for the champions. A cheerful and articulate Year 13, Haenga captures the tension beforehand.
"Our warm up was full on. We were each really focussed on our own roles. When the game started we got a case of the butterflies and struggled early," Haenga reflects.
Wellington was equally rattled and Wainuiomata withstood an early physical onslaught before scoring three first-half tries.
"Wellington lost a bit of discipline and we all stepped up. We made the most of our chances and had a good lead at halftime," Haenga says.
In the second-half Wellington threatened to rally, but Wainuiomata held their nerve. Solomona Mapesone bagged a hat-trick and Conan Burt and Levi Wipene also crossed the chalk in a victory which caused palpable relief and excitement.
"I felt so happy. The commitment of the boys was awesome and Stephen Kearney is a legend so to win his trophy is real cool," Haenga enthuses.
"Last year some of the boys had different priorities. Many of them didn't show up to training. A little bit of effort goes a long way," Haenga continues.
Wainuiomata ended the two year unbeaten run of St. Pat’s Silverstream, a key victory in their push to the title.
"That was our hardest game. Silverstream are a really big and dominant team. Beating them gave us a lot of belief," Haenga explains.
Two players in the team are heading to Australia for trials with NRL teams. Montelle Le'Afa is going to the Canberra Raiders and Conan Burt to Brisbane. Wainuiomata enjoys a proud tradition as a league stronghold, with the list of Kiwis from the area including John and David Lomax, David Faiumu and Paul Whatuira. Interestingly another team member Alex Faifai Loa is the cousin of Kiwi Kalifa Faifai Loa.
"It's a big deal for us. There has been a real buzz at school. We are really proud of our achievement. I would like to thank our coaches David Tuari, Donny Maxwell and Moana Kuma who come into school to help us out," Haenga acclaims.
In the winter Haenga was in the First XV rugby team. Individually the hooker enjoyed personal success making the Wellington and New Zealand Maori U18 squads, but his team struggled finishing fifth in Premier Two.
"We find it hard to compete with the city schools. We lose a lot of players, but I love my rugby. I was real surprised to make the Wellington U18's. I love the fact you don't have to count to five every time you have the ball," Haenga laughs.
NZ Secondary Schools have drawn first blood in their two-game series against NSW Combined High Schools, prevailing 22-18 in the opening encounter at Rotorua’s Puketawhero Park.
The home side was never headed throughout, opening up a 10-point margin early in the second half through a try to wing Lewis Soosemea and holding off a strong finish from the visitors.
New Zealand enjoyed an early period of domination, when the Aussies allowed the opening kick-off to bounce into touch. Moments later, five-eighth Neal Tai chased down a kick from Zae Wallace behind the try-line to open the scoring.
Big prop Oregon Kaufusi charged over for a try that was converted to bring NSW level at 6-6, but when the Kiwis scored either side of the break, they had a firm grip on the contest.
Fullback Awatere Kiwara crossed out wide, after second row Jerome Mamea off-loaded on the try-line, for New Zealand to lead 12-6 at half-time. Then Soosemea struck to extend the lead.
Kaufusi proved a handful for the NZ defence throughout the game and could not be stopped close to the line, muscling his way over for a second try.
Wallace sealed the result with a deft little grubber kick, which he regathered to score under the crossbar. The conversion – Wallace’s third of the match – took the margin to double figures again, enough to withstand a third NSW try, this one to lock Mathew Coker.
“It was very tough,” said NZ Secondary Schools coach Moehewa Armstrong. “We expected New South Wales to come out with speed, but then It became a way of attrition.
“We certainly just kept coming at us and in the end, our boys really dug deep. They came in with a unity that they wanted to fight for each other right up to the last minute and that’s what they did, so I’m really proud of them.”
Wallace was nominated by the NSW side as the NZ player of the match, while Kaufusi was adjudged best of the guests.
The two rivals will meet again at 2.30m Saturday on Auckland’s Cornwall Park. Last year, New Zealand rallied from an 18-point half-time deficit to pip the tourists 30-22 in their one-off fixture.
NZ Secondary Schools Selection 22 (Neal Tai, Awatere Kiwara, Lewis Soosemea & Zae Wallace tries; Wallace 3 goals) NSW Combined High Schools 18 (Oregon Kaufusi 2 & Mathew Coker tries; Tom Steadman 3 goals)
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