Rugby: Wet weather rugby for school internationals

By Campbell Burnes

In the early match, the NZ Barbarians Schools defeated Australian Schools 28-17 for the third time, continuing a hoodoo that dates back to 2012. Photo / Brett Phibbs
In the early match, the NZ Barbarians Schools defeated Australian Schools 28-17 for the third time, continuing a hoodoo that dates back to 2012. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The wet conditions called for some tactical restraint and discretion in this afternoon's schools rugby internationals at Mt Albert Grammar School.

There were some outstanding skills on display but some naïve rugby from all four sides in the quadrangular which culminates in Saturday's matches at Auckland Grammar School.

In the early match, the NZ Barbarians Schools defeated Australian Schools 28-17 for the third time, continuing a hoodoo that dates back to 2012, the year of the team's inception.

The conditions were at their worst for the first spell but, after an early try to Australian loosehead prop Lloyd Gorman, the Barbarians worked out that skid kicking, plugging the corners, working the blind and setting midfield targets were the order of the day.

That led to right wing Danny Toala kicking the goals, and halfback Folau Fakatava reached out for the first try close to the line.

The Barbarians locks Cameron Suafoa and Naitoa Ah Kuoi clattered into rucks and pulled down lineout ball, while the midfield of Quinn Tupaea and Tanielu Telea were solid with or without the ball, though they were dinged up by the end.

Fakatava and first five Lincoln McClutchie showed their good understanding from the Hastings BHS First XV and, indeed, all three Barbarians' tries went to Hastings' boys after McClutchie put in a sweet crosskick for Toala's try.

McClutchie's try came from some nice interplay between the No 10, Telea and left wing Connor Garden-Bachop.

Midfield replacement Scott Gregory of Whangarei BHS was busy and physical in his work.

Australia edged back into the contest during the second half, which featured long, flat periods of play, but fullback Kaleb Trask slotted two late penalty goals to seal another pleasing result for the team and the Barbarians' club.

In the main game, NZ Schools took a long time to warm to their work before eventually subduing a big, physical Fijian Schools outfit 45-19.

They led just 19-12 at the half, partly due to the fact that several players were out of position and combinations failed to swiftly gel. It did not help that No 12 Paul Roache injured an ankle in the warm-up, forcing a reshuffle in the five-eighths, with first five Harry Plummer moving out one, a position in which he does have some background.

NZ Schools did have the scrum advantage but they made too many errors to thrust home their early superiority in that facet.

Fijian lock Apisalome Bogidrau scored a brace, while No 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai and No 15 Sirino Moceilekutu was dangerous, but the tourists were too loose when it counted and NZ Schools made them pay in the second stanza via doubles to flanker Sione Havili and fullback Ngane Punivai. Wing Caleb Clarke, on his home turf, scored one try and lost the ball on the line for a second. Skipper and No 8 Brayden Iose carried powerfully.

But it was a war of attrition and management will need to make some calls on dinged up players over the next 24-48 hours, which may necessitate delving into the Barbarians' ranks or looking further afield.

There was a large, vocal crowd of over 2000 on hand, among them many of rugby's cognoscenti. From the Blues came Tana Umaga and Tony Hanks, while Taranaki legend Andy Slater was on hand to see his boy Bradley play hooker for NZ Schools. Barbarians club president Ron Williams was flying the official flag for his club, which sponsors the second tier side.

Saturday's matches see NZ Barbarians Schools face Fiji Schools, while NZ Schools and Australia lock horns for the Trans-Tasman Shield. The latter last won the silverware in 2012.

One would like to think the fickle Auckland weather will behave itself so we can see the full array of skills.

NZ Barbarians Schools 28 (Folau Fakatava, Lincoln McClutchie, Danny Toala tries; Toala 2 con, pen; Kaleb Trask 2 pen) Australian Schools 17 (Lloyd Gorman, Hunter Paisami tries; Ryan Lonergan con, pen; Isaac Lucas con) HT: 22-10 NZ Barbarians Schools

NZ Schools 45 (Sione Havili 2, Ngane Punivai 2, Ciarahn Matoe, Billy Proctor, Caleb Clarke tries; Harry Plummer 5 con) Fiji Schools 19 (Apisalome Bogidrau 2, Raikabula Momoedonu tries; Peniasi Ratu con, Benedito Vakaruru con) HT: 19-12 NZ Schools

- NZ Herald

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