The Junior Kangaroos have proved too powerful for the Junior Kiwis, posting a 34-20 victory in their annual mid-season match-up at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night.
The clash saw Blue and Gold teammates face off against one another, with Alex Twal and Tyrell Fuimaono playing for the Junior Kangaroos, and Tom Amone and late call up to the Junior Kiwis side.
The Kangaroos proved dangerous early on their right edge, as winger Curtis Scott came close to scoring in the opening ten minutes. Kiwis second-rower Marata Nuikore was hard to handle on the left for New Zealand in a back-and-forth start to the match.
Australian hooker Jayden Nikorima passed from dummy half for the first points of the match, finding JJ Felise who barged over from inside the 10 metre line in the 14th minute, taking four defenders with him.
Five-eighth Nathan Cleary converted to give the Junior Kangaroos a 6-0 lead, and the young Kangaroos extended their advantage in the 21st minute with some classy passing from their fullback, as Dylan Edwards’ cut out pass hit Curtis Scott with room on the outside to sail over for a try.
A welcome penalty for the Kiwis saw them travel upfield, and move the ball left through the hands for a cut-out pass from fullback Brad Abbey to winger Ken Tofilau to score in the corner in the 19th minute.
A steaming run from Nathaniel Roache took the Kiwis well inside the 20 in the 33rd minute, with a second penalty leaving them inside the 10-metre line with six tackles under their belts. Ata Hingano went alone to score with defenders hanging on for the ride, bringing the Kangaroos’ leading margin back in to just 2 points as they headed back to the sheds leading 10-8.
Coming out strongly in the second half, the Kangaroos extended their lead through Brian Kelly, as the Aussies’ attacking kick bounced back from the Kiwis for Kelly to scoop up and slip through broken play to plant the ball. Just six minutes later, Kangaroos forward Connor Watson ran onto a short ball close to the line and muscled over for his own four-pointer.
The Kiwis answered back courtesy of Ata Hingano, who chased down his own chip to score in the 47th minute, but the Kangaroos held the weight of possession as the game moved into the final 20 minutes.
Nathan Cleary stretched the green and gold lead further as he scored close to the posts and converted his own four-pointer, while a possible New Zealand try to Jamayne Isaako on the back of scattered play through the middle was controversially denied for obstruction.
Centre Robert Jennings put on a step and swerve to score his own four-pointer in the 73rd minute, and New Zealand centre Siosifa Talakai scored close to the buzzer to narrow the final score to 34-20.
Junior Kangaroos - 34 (Felise, Scott, Kelly, Watson, Cleary, Jennings. Cleary: 5/6)
Junior Kiwis - 20 (Tofilau, Hingano 2, Talakai. Abbey: 0/2. Isaako: 2/2)