The New Zealand Under 20s have defeated their Australian counterparts 30-10 in the opening Oceania international on the Gold Coast.
The four tries to one victory was ultimately decisive, but there is plenty of work ahead for New Zealand before Saturday's second match. In particular, the scrum came under heat from Australia, while the lineout was inconsistent. But they defended well, and the five-eighths combination of Stephen Perofeta and Jordie Barrett, who scored 15 points, looked useful. Hawke's Bay wing Mason Emerson ran with dash and scored two tries, the second off a cross-kick. Burly prop Alex Fidow made some bullocking charges in maximum impact off the bench.
Both sides struggled with the humidity which made the opening spell handling a challenge. Lock Sam Caird was New Zealand's go-to lineout man, but they could not always connect with him.
New Zealand's cause was helped greatly going into the final quarter when Australian tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax, son of former Kiwi John Lomax, was sinbinned for a dangerous neck roll on flanker Mitch Jacobson. Fidow's presence seemed to right the scrum, and New Zealand even poached a tighthead at the death.
The coaching staff and the players themselves will seek more on the weekend, but this was a solid platform from which to forge their world championship plans.
New Zealand Under 20s 30 (Mason Emerson 2, Quinten Strange, Jordie Barrett tries; Barrett 2 con, 2 pen)
Australia Under 20s 10 (Moses Sorovai try; Mack Mason con, pen)