The Under 18 national teams from Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji have started their schools Tri-Nations series in Australia. The first game was between Fiji and New Zealand and the Kiwis beat the Bula boys by a convincing 56-3 scoreline. This game was followed by a New Zealand Barbarians game against Tonga and the junior New Zealand team again came away with a crushing victory. This once again shows the depth and talent of the New Zealand rugby system at every level of the game
Player of the Match
Winger Leicester Faingaanuku (Nelson College), was on the end of some solid teamwork to secure a hat-trick of tries and also added a penalty and conversion to his personal tally. Faingaanuku is an interesting story and a player with a bright future. The fullback was locked into a contract with the Tasman Makos back when he was 15 after rumours circulated that the Parramatta Eels were interested in taking him to Australia to play rugby league. With the starlet’s future secured in union, Faingaanuku is developing into quite the prospect.
A sound defensive effort laid the platform for the New Zealand side. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Wellington College) and captain Quinn Tupaea (Hamilton Boys’ High School) both dotted down twice, while Sam Cooper (St Paul’s Collegiate) and Abraham Pole (Otago Boys’ High School) also got on the scoresheet.
The New Zealand Schools Barbarians also looked impressive in their 33-19 victory over Tonga Schools in Palmerston North. Prop Oliver Norris (St Peter’s College—Cambridge) opened the scoring with the first of five tries for the Barbarians team. Rico Syme and Louie Chapman (Christchurch Boy’s High School) also crossed for first-half tries and three successful conversions from Fergus Burke (St Paul’s Collegiate) secured a 21-5 halftime lead.
Replacement back Kaleb Talamahina (Southland Boys’ High School) scored to extend the lead before Burke crossed for a try – which he then converted – for a 33-19 victory.
One thing that stood out for me after watching the highlights of the game between the New Zealand schools and their Fijian counterparts was that the gap between the Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations is widening, even at schoolboy level. In previous years this has been the age group where small rugby nations can cause an upset win against teams such as New Zealand and Australia.
This newfound dominance at the schoolboy level is possibly due to how the game is structured in New Zealand. Big rugby schools such as Hamilton Boys and Nelson College have dedicated facilities and staff that are focused solely on rugby development. This begins at the Under 15 age group at the school – and even earlier in junior club sides – and flows through to the First XV. This level of professionalism showed in that heavy win over Fiji.
New Zealand schools sides show that the development structures and systems that have been put in by the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) are working. Various schools around New Zealand have continually produced top quality rugby youngsters and their output and depth as a nation is only growing. These are youngsters who will be future stars of the game in years to come, both at the provincial and international level. Judging by their understanding of the laws, basic skills, and flair for the dramatic, New Zealand rugby is in good stead for the future.
Are New Zealand going to dominate at this level too? Let us know below!
The highlights between NZ schools and Australian Schools Barbarians match.
New Zealand Schools coach Jason Holland previews the ongoing tournament which will see the team play Fiji, Australian Schools Barbarians and Australian Schools.
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