The New Zealand Under-18 Maori have ended their week together with a 38-26 victory over Tonga Schools at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua.
The fixture followed a similar course to the Tongan’s match against the New Zealand Barbarians last Thursday.
Tonga was tentative from the outset and fell behind 19-0 after ten minutes and 26-7 at halftime before fighting gallantly in the second-spell to reduce the deficit and earn the respect of their superiorly resourced opponents.
In the first minute Tonga fumbled the ball meekly on halfway and were made to pay when fullback John Cooper crossed in the corner supporting a bust by centre Austin Brown.
A few moments’ later first-five Stewart Cruden kicked for wing Coel Kerr to snaffle inside the visitors 22. New Zealand recycled swiftly and prop Jonas Pomare crashed over.
A hiding looked like a distinct possibility when lively halfback Shamara Brooks darted over for try number three, punishing more hapless handling from the visitors.
However Tonga rallied and powerhouse prop Hiliau Latu opened the tourists account after 15 minutes when he muscled over near the posts. Latu has exhibited exceptional form for Tonga in starting all three internationals.
New Zealand’s fourth try was exceptional. The ball was juggled and parried hurriedly close to the sideline, but remained in play for powerful No.8 Terrell Peita to claim a meat pie.
New Zealand blindside Keelan Whitman scored a soft fifth try and Kerr was gifted the sixth after Tonga made a hash of an attempted defensive clearance.
Tongan reserves Heimuli Taufa and Nawruz Kanongata’a were rewarded for their toil finishing robust and sustained forward surges and Alofaki Fihaki strode 30-metres for the last say in an outstanding solo effort.
New Zealand will be pleased to win, but the real story is Tonga. No.8 Apitoni To’ia was a superb captain for a side that has delighted and surprised supporters with their infectiously positive, organized, aggressive and competitive approach to the game.
Tonga was assisted in the coaching department today by All Black Vaea Fifta.
Video highlights of the tries below:
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