New Zealand Schools had to hold off a fast-finishing Australian Barbarians Schools team to claim a 23-22 win in Brisbane on Monday afternoon. Out-scoring New Zealand Schools three tries to two, the Barbarians ensured the last 20 minutes of the game were a tightly-contested game. Neither side scored but New Zealand at least played the game hot on attack and denied the Barbarians side the opportunity they needed.
However, the effort was a wake-up call for New Zealand Schools ahead of Friday's international with Australia Schools, also in Brisbane.
New Zealand dominated the first half, but the home team came back strongly in the third quarter.
The Australian Barbarians had an issue at the breakdown, especially in the first half, and New Zealand Schools' goal-kicker Joshua McKay, from Christchurch Boys' High School landed three penalty goals while missing two others as New Zealand enjoyed a 16-7 lead at half-time.
With loose forwards, Slade McDowall of Otago Boys' High School, Liam Giltrap from Palmerston North Boys' and No.8 Marino Makaele-Tu'u in commanding touch they contested each and every breakdown with telling effect.
But it was McKay's individual skills that resulted in New Zealand's two tries.
The first came in the 24th minute when he ran onto the ball at speed and made the initial break before then eluding two other defenders en route to the line.
Then six minutes into the second half with the Australians reduced to 14 men after a professional foul by prop Harry Hoopert, McKay kicked to land in behind the Australian defence and then out-sprinted the covering defenders to make perfect use of the good bounce to score a spectacular try.
In the first half Australian Barbarians wing Kris Verevis made good use of a tap penalty option taken instead of a shot at goal and in partnership with first five-eighths Hamish Stewart he crossed in the corner.
The Australians lifted their game in the second half and two tries in four minutes brought them right back into the game.
First, in the 44th minute Sam Wallace scored from a maul close to the New Zealand line then Hoopert, who lifted his game after coming back onto the field, was on hand to drive over close to the goalposts for Australian Barbarians to get back to 19-23 when his Toowoomba Grammar School team-mate Stewart added the conversion.
Then after McKay blotted his copybook with an attempted left-foot clearance going awry and Australia getting a penalty in subsequent play Stewart was able to add the goal to get the margin back to one point.
Scorers: Australian Barbarians Schoolboys 22 (Kris Verevis, Sam Wallace, Harry Hoopert tries; Hamish Stewart 2 con, pen) New Zealand Schools 23 (Josh McKay 2 tries; 2 con, 3 pen); HT: 7-16
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