Rugby: First-fives star in schoolboy triumphs

By Campbell Burnes

New Zealand's national schools rugby teams made it a clean sweep under a warm spring sun before around 3000 spectators.

NZ Schools retained the Trans-Tasman Shield they have held since 2013 with a 32-22 victory over their Australian counterparts.

They have plenty for which to thank first-five Harry Plummer. The St Peter's pivot slotted seven from seven off the tee and potted a nice dropped goal for 22 points. His control in the first spell with the wind guided NZ Schools to a 22-3 halftime lead.

Australia, who were big and physical in the collisions, had a purple patch in the third quarter, scoring three well-taken tries to draw level at 22-22. New Zealand replacement halfback Tim Hogan was binned, making for some tense moments, but the home side tightened up and went more direct, resulting in a try to lock Laghlan McWhannell which sealed the contest.

To the fore were loose forwards Brayden Iose and Sione Havili, while prop Damon Abraham made an impact off the bench. Centre Caleb Clarke, son of Eroni, looked the most likely of the New Zealand backs.

In the curtainraiser, NZ Barbarians Schools continued their unbeaten international run with a 46-20 win over a useful Fijian Schools.

The seven-tries-to-two result looks decisive enough but, in truth, the Barbarians had to work hard to subdue the rugged Fijians. Even in the second spell, when Fiji were already down a man due to a red card on No 14 Esala Nalobo, the Barbarians could not fully pull clear.

First-five Kaleb Trask had a good day, racking up 21 points including two tries - one of which was a highlight-reel solo effort where he stepped his way through the entire Fiji defence

A pin-point crosskick set up centre Danny Toala for a fine team try which featured Jamie Spowart and Niven Longopoa. Captain and flanker Joe Johnston, who scored the first try, also impressed.

NZ Schools: 32 (N. Punivai, L. McWhannell tries; H. Plummer 2 cons, 5 pens, dg)
Australian Schools: 22 (H. Paisami, M. McTaggart, W. Eadie tries; R. Lonergan 2 cons, pen)
HT: 22-3

NZ Barbarians Schools: 46 (K. Trask 2, J. Johnston, D. Toala, M. Ruawai, T. Whata, J, Spowart tries; Trask 4 cons, pen)
Fiji Schools: 20 (V. Suwawa, K. Uluilakepa tries; L. Bacau 2 cons, 2 pens)
HT: 22-13

- NZ Herald

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