The latest transtasman rugby league battle went the way of the Kiwis at the picturesque Mitchell Park in Otumoetai on Saturday.
Otumoetai Eels under-15s clashed with Southport Tigers under-15s from Brisbane in a free-flowing game that produced 13 tries, the home team winning 40-28.
The match was a homecoming for Tigers coach Graeme Eady, who was born and bred in Tauranga and left for Brisbane 10 years ago.
The young Eels, coached by Stan Nicholas, had a major size advantage, which they tried to use early on at the cost of shifting the ball wide. The Aussie battlers may have been smaller but they were well-organised around the ruck and defended courageously.
The Tigers opened the scoring after a mix-up of codes went through an Eels defender's mind that saw him force the ball in goal in rugby union fashion, gifting possession to the Tigers. Two plays later halfback Beau Davidson dived over.
Prop Bailey Nicholas crashed over for the Eels' first try before impressive centre Ereatara Smallman crossed out wide after a smart pass by Luke Cairns Nelson put him into space.
Smallman was in the next play from the restart, running the ball up 45 metres before a loose pass was intercepted by fleet-footed Kyle Maggs, who just beat the cover defence to score for the Tigers.
Second rower Kereama Kiwi scored a superb long-range try to put the match beyond the Tigers but it was dynamic centre Smallman who scored the try of the match with his second four-pointer after he cut the Tigers defence to shreds.
Fullback Shevez Williams impressed with his accurate goalkicking in the tricky cross breeze, missing just one kick from seven attempts.
Under-15 Eels' Smallman, Kiwi and Nicholas will join clubmates Tarquin Court, Ryan Gordon, Wilz Rutene, Josh Weedon (seniors) and Jacob Tana (under-17) in the Waicoa Bay reps to contest the rugby league nationals next week in Auckland.
Otumoetai Eels 40 (Ereatara Smallman 2, Kereama Kiwi 2, Bailey Nicholas, Amanaki Pasi, Hans Amoroa tries; Shevez Williams 6 goals).
Southport Tigers 28 (Beau Davidson, Kyle Maggs, Caleb Bonning, Lachlan Douglas, Mitchell Giles, Louis Barnett tries; Barnett 2 goals).