The New Zealand Heartland XV and their five Whanganui players had a great start to the Jock Hobbs Memorial Under 19 tournament with an injury time win on Sunday.
Heartland defeated Auckland Development 19-16 when first-five Tomas Hanham-Carter broke the deadlock with his fourth penalty goal after the 70 minute mark in Taupo.
Part of Mid Canterbury's Heartland Championship squad, Hanham-Carter scored all of his team's points, being on the end of a well-constructed try in the corner after multiple phases in Heartland's best attacking period of the game.
The scores were deadlocked 6-6 at halftime, then Heartland scored 10 points in the 12 minutes after the break to lead 16-6, before Auckland Development came back to level the match.
Assistant coach Justin Lock said the team, who were still learning each others names, had done well considering the Aucklanders had six games together as a playing group.
"You can't coach heart, and these boys have got buckets of it."
Whanganui's Dylan Bowater captained the side from blindside flanker, having previously led the Hurricanes Heartland Under 20's who made up the bulk of the New Zealand squad.
Hamish Bennett was at lock while Harry Symes was on the wing, looking for work as the ball did not often come his way.
Dylan Gallien came on as reserve loosehead prop, as did Chris Breuer as reserve lock, with Lock saying he was outstanding in the second half.
Normally a loose forward, Breuer had to cover lock as fellow Whanganui player Gordon Coogan injured his knee at training on Saturday and has returned home.
Heartland will now face Southland in their next game tomorrow afternoon, after the southerners caused a minor upset with a 32-28 win over Taranaki.
"A lot of [preparation] stuff we were looking at was about Taranaki, then Southland got up late," said Lock.
The winner of the 4pm match will go onto Saturday's final for the Michael Jones trophy in the second-tier competition, against either Hawke's Bay or Counties Manukau.
The beaten sides from those two games will also face each other.