Rugby: Opening match lessons for NZ U20s

No 8 Matt Peni scored a try for New Zealand during their Junior World Championship win over Samoa. Photo / Brett Phibbs
No 8 Matt Peni scored a try for New Zealand during their Junior World Championship win over Samoa. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The analysis soon turned to South Africa this Friday but there were lessons from New Zealand's opening Junior World Championship win over Samoa that should be absorbed.

One of those who made a strong impression was No8 Matt Peni, the Wellingtonian who played all five games for the Samoan Under 20s at last year's Junior World Championship, following in the footsteps of Steven Luatua, who was with Samoa in the 2010 tournament and then a world champion with New Zealand in 2011.

He scored a first-half try off a lineout drive and made good metres with his robust carries. He was subbed into the last quarter, which seemed surprising at the time as he brought valuable go-forward, but it was a planned substitution.

While coach Chris Boyd lamented set-piece timing and kickoff inaccuracy, Peni saw "little errors" as proving costly for New Zealand.

"Samoa were just feeding off those," he said. "There was also a bit of miscommunication and the Samoan boys feed off their own confidence. As soon as they got go-forward, they got a pretty good roll-on.

"But our boys were up for it. As soon as the Samoan boys got momentum we stuck at it and worked together to get back on our feet."

The result was that from 27-12 and under the pump, New Zealand were able to lay on three tries in quick succession, including a super solo effort from replacement wing Tevita Li, on his home ground.

New Zealand already knew Samoa would bring their renowned physicality, said Peni, but they were still difficult to combat when their tails were up.

As soon as the reviews of the Samoan game were done and dusted, South Africa loomed menacingly into focus, fresh from a 61-5 dismantling of Scotland in another far from perfect display.

"We'll go back to the drawing board to deliver a better performance," said Peni. "We'll need it against South Africa."

It will be interesting to see how Boyd tweaks his line-up.

If we assume captain Simon Hickey will slot into No10 and Li will start on the wing, then it becomes a matter of whether Jackson Garden-Bachop has done enough to hold off Kaveinga Finau or TJ Faiane at second five.

Damian McKenzie's forays from fullback were elusive and effective. He will stay in the pack, No6 Kyle Harris and lock Geoff Cridge were good value in the loose and in the air respectively, and Peni's ability with the ball should ensure he will start again.

"We'll certainly be putting out our best side to play South Africa. It might not necessarily be what we think is our best team," said Boyd, trying to put South Africa off the scent.

"They were impressive. They are very big, very physical, very strong at set-piece, so they are going to be a serious handful for us on Friday night."

- NZ Herald

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