A strong second half showing has powered the New Zealand Resident 16s to a 24-10 win over the Toa Samoa 16s in Rotorua.
The game, played at Puketawhero Park on Thursday night, took a while to get going as both sides struggled with handling errors on attack and produced uncompromising defence at the other end.
The first 20 minutes was a real arm wrestle as neither side had trouble making metres, but could not quite execute once given attacking opportunities. It was New Zealand who opened the scoring after being awarded a penalty right in front of the posts. Sione Moala kicked the goal for a 2-0 lead.
A decent crowd attended the game, hoping to see some hard hitting rugby league, and they were not disappointed. The forward rotation from both sides ensured the big hits kept coming throughout.
Twenty-five minutes into the game it was all square again when Samoa's Joshua Setefano kicked a penalty goal from right in front.
Shortly before halftime Samoa took the lead. They made a break up the left-hand side of the field into the New Zealand 20m. After a couple of hit-ups in the middle they shifted the ball back to the left and centre Evander Tere-Rongotaua raced through a gap to score.
Samoa led 6-2 at the break.
Whatever was said at halftime seemed to have an effect on the New Zealand players as they came out firing in the second half.
Consecutive penalties helped them out of their own end and they went on the attack. Once they were within touching distance of the try line reserve hooker Mase Carson scooted out of dummy-half and crashed over to score his side's first try of the match. It was converted and New Zealand led 8-6.
New Zealand were making metres at will and it was not long before they were on the attack again. This time Jarney Proctor-Harwood was the benefactor, scoring in the left-hand corner on the back of a superb cut-out ball from Moala. Moala converted the try from the sideline for a 14-6 lead.
Fifteen minutes into the half Moala, who was a standout throughout, made a break out of his own half, beating countless defenders before shifting the ball right to his halves partner and captain Quinnlan Tupou. Tupou found his winger Lani Graham-Taufa who dived over in the corner for the most entertaining try of the match. Moala again converted from the sideline to make it 20-6.
With about 15 minutes left to play, New Zealand all but sealed the win when Graham-Taufa scored his second to make it 24-6.
Samoa scored late-on through Jeff Tatupu-Leilua to make it 24-10, but it was too late to mount a comeback with New Zealand running out worthy winners.
Playing in front of his home crowd was New Zealand hooker Dayna Bidois, who attends Rotorua Boys' High School, and he was one of the standout players.
Bidois did everything you expect from a good hooker, providing good service out of dummy-half, running the ball in behind the ruck when the markers were not in position and making a truckload of tackles in the middle of the field, to the delight of his family and friends in attendance.