Magpies hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes captained New Zealand to a 53-7 victory against Fiji in their opening match at the Oceania under-20 rugby championship in Brisbane tonight.
Kereru-Symes was one of four members of the 2017 national title-winning Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV in the New Zealand side which is coached by former Magpies mentor Craig Philpott. Magpies loosie Devan Flanders who started at No 8, Magpies outside back Danny Toala, who started at fullback, and Bay of Plenty-based openside flanker Jeriah Mua were the others.
Flanders, who was a member of last year's Baby Blacks team, was powerful on the carry. Toala impressed with his counter attacking and tactical kicks. Kereru-Symes was accurate in all aspects of play and Mua had a high defensive workrate.
Fiji exceeded expectations in the first half and competed well. Fiji had the first penalty attempt at goal in the 14th minute but first five-eighth Caleb Muntz missed from 24 metres out.
The Baby Blacks didn't have their first attempt until the 19th minute and first five-eighth Fergus Burke succeeded. Busy winger Sam Gilbert scored the defending champions first try in the 22nd minute.
Winger Kaminieli Rasuku scored the Fijians only try in the 35th minute which halfback Simione Kuruvoli coverted. Centre Quinn Tupaea scored the Baby Blacks only other first half try in the 38th minute and Burke again added the extras to give New Zealand a 15-7 lead at the intrval.
Fiji were always going to struggle after winger Epeli Momo was red carded for a dangerous tackle in the 41st minute. A minute later lock Tupou Vaa'i scored the first of his two tries and the floodgates opened.
New Zealand's scrum became more dominant as the Fijians began to tire and a powerful scrum was the key to halfback Leroy Carter's 47th minute try. Winter Lalomilo Lalomilo scored in the 59th minute and subsitute pivot Rivez Reihana slotted the first of his three conversions to have the Baby Blacks 34-7 up.
Further tries to Tupaea, Vaa'i and substitute hooker Shiulo Klein ended the drubbing.
New Zealand's next game will be against Japan on Tuesday and their last game will be against hosts Australia on May 4.
New Zealand 53 (Quinn Tupaea 2, Tupou Vaa'i 2, Sam Gilbert, Leroy Carter, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Shilo Klein tries; Fergus Burke pen, 2 cons; Rivez Reihana 3 cons), Fiji 7 (Kaminieli Rasuku try; Simione Kuruvoli con). HT: 15-7.