The New Zealand Under-18 Maori have finished 2018 unbeaten foiling a fast finishing Fiji 20-15 at Jerry Collins Stadium, Wellington.
On Wednesday the Maori themed their practice “training messy.” Splitting the team in half the boys who were Fiji were given a license to do what they liked. Predictability the result was chaos.
It was good preparation for a match that turned into unadulterated mayhem in the last 20 minutes. When the opposition first-five is effective on the crash ball all convention is abandoned.
Isolating the final third the Maori had no right to win. Fiji dominated possession and created enough chances to prevail. Why did the visitors fall short?
The Maori went into the trenches and scrambled desperately to preserve their advantage. At ground level the Maori energy and communication was infinitely superior to that of the Barbarians against the same opposition on Monday.
Initially the Maori appeared en route for a comfortable victory. Leading 14-5 at halftime the Maori enjoyed an imperious scrum and drove effectively from lineouts.
The Maori scored two converted tries. Blindside Te Rama Reuben (Rotorua Boys’ High School) detached from an unstoppable maul and Chris Hemi (St Patrick’s College, Silverstream) barreled over after the horn. The loosehead prop lived up to his nickname the ‘Hemi-toma’ producing a bruising display.
Two Te Paea Cook-Savage (St Paul’s Collegiate) penalties extended the Maori lead to 20-5, but quite frankly the first 15 minutes of the second-spell was boring.
The game burst to life in the 50th minute when Fijian first-five Josua Koro ploughed through the defense and scampered 20-metres to touch down under the posts. The conversion made it 20-12.
With six minutes to spare Koro kicked a penalty setting the stage for the frantic finale.
Fiji broke repeatedly, but the Maori were able to somehow cover. Lightweight Jack Gray’s tackle on enormous No.8 Eparama Tuivunivono was indicative of the Maori spirit.
In addition to Hemi loose forwards Terrell Peita (Mount Albert Grammar School) and Oliver Parkinson (Auckland Grammar School) were standouts alongside hooker Billy Priestly (Gisborne Boys’ High School) lively halfback Cortez Lee-Ratima (Hamilton Boys’ High School) and rock solid second-five Leo Thompson (Napier Boys’ High School).
Fijian captain and openside Alivereti Loaloa has had an exceptional tour and despite being on the losing side was arguably the man of the match. Loaloa was well supported by Tuivunivono, Koro and lock Joeli Matalaweru.
Fiji depart with two wins against the Wellington Samoans 33-20 and the New Zealand Barbarians 15-10.
First, they play in the Tawa Invitational 7s tournament on Saturday, also including St Pat's Silverstream, St Pat's Town and Tawa College in their section.
Video highlights below:
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