The New Zealand Barbarians Schools team has subdued a tenacious Tongan Schools side 33-19 at the Sport and Rugby Institute in Palmerston North this afternoon.
Apart from two soft tries at the beginning of the match for the hosts it was a very even contest between a sometimes unpolished New Zealand team and a fiercely determined and often well organised Tongan outfit.
New Zealand breezed to a 14-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes.
The first try was scored by prop forward Oliver Norris (St Peter’s College, Cambridge) following an offload by second five-eighth Keinan Higgins (St Pat’s Silverstream) down the shortside which led to a break and ended with a kick that forced the Tongan fullback to be taken into touch. A strong maul and a couple of phases later Norris went in.
Fullback Rico Syme (Christchurch Boys’ High School) scored the next try. He stepped off the left foot and darted 40 metres to beat the defence. Fergus Burke (St Paul’s Collegiate) converted to double the score.
An intercept by Tongan captain and No. 8 Apitoni To'ia sparked Tonga back into the game. His 25-metre charge was followed by a bruising run by centre Siosefa Finau and a try was scored by loosehead prop Hiliau Latu.This was unconverted and it was 14-5.
Tonga then lost the ball over the line when they had another chance to score. New Zealand openside Taine Te Whata (Otago Boys’ High School) had an impressive game, and he charged down a ball and strode away, but was pulled down short.
Finau made another booming run but lost the ball over the line. Barbarians lock Taine Plumtree (Wellington College) ran like a flanker at times and one such 30 metre run led to another chance. However his flashy offload was fumbled by a support player.
Barbarians halfback Louie Chapman (Christchurch Boys’ High School) scored the last try of the first-half when he ran down an attacking kick. Earlier Syme wriggled out of a tackle and turned defence into attack. The halftime score was 19-5 to the New Zealand side.
The start of the second half saw a second try to Tonga, scored by centre Finau after big breaks by blindside Nawruz Kanongata'a and To'ia. This closed the gap to 21-12.
The Barbarians won a tighthead scrum and out stretched Tonga, replacement outside back Kaleb Talamahina (Southland Boys’ High School) crossing to extend the lead to 26-12.
The Barbarians crossed for another try, through first five-eighth Fergus Burke.
Tonga then got their hands on the ball for sustained periods and attacked with vigour in the close quarter channels. They hammered away for 10 minutes and were rewarded by a try to Kamongata'a
The New Zealand Barbarians dominated the scrums in this contest, and the best players were flanker Te Whata, lock Plumtree, fullback Syme and flyhalf Burke.
The next game in this series is on Monday, with the New Zealand Barbarians back in Palmerston North to play the New Zealand Maori U18 team. Tonga Schools meet a Wellington U18 selection on Monday in Porirua.