New Zealand Schools 45 (Ngane Punivai 3, Sione Havili 2, Ciarahn Matoe 1, Billy Proctor tries; Harry Plummer 5 con) beat Fiji Schools 19 (Api Bogidrau, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Raikabula Momoedonu tries Peniasi Ratu con; Laisa Bacau con) Halftime 19-12.
Two years ago New Zealand Schools beat Fiji Schools 58-0. In their fixture today at Mount Albert Grammar School, New Zealand earned a seven tries to three win over Fiji.
Fiji was very physical from the outset of the contest, making a number of bone-jarring tackles and attempting to intimidate the New Zealanders. However, New Zealand scored the first try when King’s College’s Ciarahn Matoe grubbered ahead a spillage and touched down to make it 7-0.
Fiji replied with an unconverted try to their industrious lock Api Bogidrau.
New Zealand then enjoyed a period of ascendancy, stretching the Fijians with their quick passing and running game and consequently ran in two further tries. St Pat’s Town entre Billy Proctor crossed, followed by Christ’s College fullback Ngane Punivai darting in to score the first of his three tries. This made it 19-7.
Fiji closed the gap again, scoring their second try to right wing Timoci Tavatavanawai. This try got the vocal Fijian supporters in full voice, being a well-constructed team try involving multiple hands and plenty of flair. This made it 19-12 at the halftime interval.
New Zealand pulled away in the second half and scored four unanswered tries before Fiji had the last say.
Punivai scored two further tries and was prominent with a series of piercing breaks. Auckland Grammar School openside flanker Sione Havili had an abrasive match and he crossed for a brace. One of his tries was scored from a 20-metre lineout drive.
Fiji were rewarded for their endeavour, scoring a well worked long-range consolation try to reserve halfback Raikabula Momoedonu.
Other players for the New Zealand Schools to play well included Palmerston North Boys’ High School No. 8 and captain Brayden Iose, who made a number of breaks and won good lineout ball. Otago Boys’ High School reserve halfback Tim Hogan brought energy off the pine and St Peter’s College's Harry Plummer, playing out of position at second five-eighth.
For Fiji, fullback Sirino Moceilekutu was electric at times, their openside flanker Meli Derenalagi was a livewire and their No. 8 and captain Lemeki Cagialau played well.
Earlier in the day, the New Zealand Barbarians beat the Australian Schools side 28-17.
The international schools series continues on Saturday at Auckland Grammar School. The NZ Barbarians Schools meet Fijian Schools and New Zealand Schools play Australia Schools.
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