It was another weekend of action as the national school’s teams from Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji locked horns. The first match was between the Australian Schools Barbarians and the Fijian Schools and it was a nail-biter to the finish. In the second match, the New Zealand Schools took on the main Australian Schools side.
Fiji vs. Australian Barbarians
The game lived up to its pre-match hype, as it went right to the final minute in the balance. The Fijian Schools would rue disciplinary indiscretions, especially in the sequence of play that led a final penalty to the Australians. The Fijian hooker was offside in the defensive line as the Australians threw in their line out. It was a soft penalty to give away, but it was indicative of the penalty issues the Fijians had throughout the game.
The Fijian Schools were offloading at will as they punched holes through the defensive line of the Australian Barbarians. They had the Australians playing on the back foot as the Barbarians tried to contain the offloading game of the Fijians. It was a quick tap by the Fijians in the 14th minute which got them their first try of the match. The quick tap has become a benchmark of the Fijian game in recent years and it paid dividends for the Fijian Schools here.
This game showed many positives for the future of Fijian Schools rugby. The team showcased how the Fijians play rugby and they got to test their skills against a disciplined Australian side. The result showed once again that in big matches, it is composure and discipline which counts the most and wins games.
The Fijians will have to improve on their set pieces if they want to compete in the next installment of this schools series. They were dominating in the general play, but some of their execution of basic skills in the scrum and lineout were seriously lacking. That is where the other teams have had an edge on them.
The final score was 20-18 to the Australian Barbarians.
New Zealand vs. Australia
The game between New Zealand and Australia was a cracker of the kind these two put on at every level of the game. There were moments of brilliance from both teams, but the Kiwis had too much firepower as they ran hard, straight lines that cracked the defence of the Australians. The young Kiwis were camped in the Australian half for most of the match and they would have scored more points if some of their freakish offloads have gotten to hand.
Despite a spirited fightback from the Australians late in the match, it was a foregone conclusion early in the second half which way this one was going to go. The Kiwis always want to play fast and they continually upped the tempo by doing quick throw-ins after the Aussies kicked the ball out of play. This, plus their use of the quick tap, had the Australians chasing shadows on defence.
The Kiwi forwards were impressive in the tackle area and were strong in the ruck. Their back three backs of Etene Nanai, Kini Naholo, and Leicester Fainganuku, were brilliant in their counter-attacking runs against the young Australians.
Final scores 34-11 to the Kiwis.
Player of the Series
It has to be Leicester Fainganuku, the New Zealand Schools blindside winger. Quite apart from his fancy footwork, Fainganuku mixed it up physically as the Australians, in particular, had a hard time stopping his bruising runs. Fainganuku has a bright future ahead of him if he remains level-headed and keeps on working hard to improve his game. Based on what we have seen in this school series, he could feature for one of New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams and even for the mighty All Blacks sooner rather than later.
Team of the Series
It was a foregone conclusion which team would the series champions before this last Test match between the New Zealand and Australian Schools. The Kiwis showed superior awareness of space and had better basic skills than the other teams that were taking part in the series. This does not come as a surprise as their coaching set-up comprised personnel who have coached at the Super Rugby level.
What is even more impressive is that the New Zealand Rugby Schools Association, along with the New Zealand Rugby Union, have two other schools sides playing at the moment. The New Zealand Schools Maori and the New Zealand Schools Barbarians have been playing over these past two weeks in a different championship against Tongan Schools team.
It shows the level of depth in the New Zealand rugby system, even at school level, is insane. These games show the gap in the understanding of the game laws and the match maturity of the Kiwis compared to the other teams. The praise for such development should be focused on schools around New Zealand, who have produced such unbelievably talented and skillful young rugby players. In three to four years these players will wear Super Rugby colours and, based on what they have shown in these tournaments, they will come in and make an impact.
It is now down to the rest of the world to catch up.
Did you watch the schools series? How do you think the future of rugby looks? Comment below!
Highlights of the New Zealand Schools and the Australian Schools match.
NZ Schools 34-11 Australian Schools.
Fiji Schools and the Australian Barbarians Highlights.
20-18 to the Australian Barbarians
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