The Junior Kiwis have defeated the Junior Kangaroos tonight by 15-14 in New Zealand in a thrilling one-point game at Mount Smart Stadium, with Rabbitohs, Sam Manuleleua and Cameron McInnes, playing integral roles for both sides.
Both Rabbitohs representatives were solid performers, with Junior Kiwis winger, Sam Manuleleua picking up a try, while Australian Captain McInnes led the way in defence – tackling himself to a standstill for the green and gold’s with over 40 tackles to the Souths Junior’s name.
Tensions were high even before the first whistle was blown, as the Junior Kangaroos confronted the Junior Kiwis during the Haka in an intense moment – the two sides bumping chests and engaging in a bit of push and shove during the traditional Kiwi opening, with match officials forced to intervene.
Despite the high emotions though, the Kangaroos stayed composed to draw first blood when a back-line movement saw the Kiwis caught short out wide, with Valentine Holmes from the Sharks racing over. Clint Gutherson added the extras from out wide to give the green and gold’s a six –nil lead just seven minutes in.
The Kiwis attempted to atone for their early misread, but the Kangaroos’ defence proved too solid until the 22nd minute, when the Rabbitohs’ own Sam Manuleleua found space out wide on the end of a Kiwis backline movement to open the scoring for the home-side. Zach Dockar-Clay sprayed the conversion attempt from out wide for the Junior Kangaroos to lead 6-4.
The rain began to come down at Mount Smart Stadium and with it came a Kiwi resurgence. The Junior Kiwis attacked the Kangaroos’ fringes again and this time it was opposite winger Chance Peni who dived over to take the lead – albeit from a blatant forward pass from centre Taane Milne.
With two minutes in the first half remaining, the Junior Kangaroos hit back though through Knights winger, Jake Mamo, who got on the outside of Manuleleua to slide over to level it up to take the teams to the sheds at 10 apiece.
After the break, the Kiwis’ Kodi Nikorima backed himself close to the Kangaroos’ line and came up with four more points for his side when the wet conditions aided his slide across the try-line. Dockar-Clay again missed the conversion leaving the Junior Kiwis leading 14-10.
By the 54th minute, despite being down on the scoreboard, the Australians kept their cool, with Captain McInnes starting off a controlled movement close to the New Zealand line that resulted in Holmes bagging his second of the night right on the touch-line to lock the scores up. Gutherson’s pressure conversion attempt to take the lead was waved away leaving the score at 14 apiece.
With the clock winding down, ball-handling took a back-seat as both sides desperately attempted to break the dead-lock. Manuleleua nearly bagged a second when the Rabbitoh soared for the Kiwis to take a high ball right on the Kangaroo line, but the Australian defence managed to keep the massive winger off the turf.
Two minutes from full-time, Dockar-Clay and Gutherson attempted drop-goals to break the deadlock, but both attempts were waved away by the referee. But it would be Te Maire Martin’s field goal attempt just seconds later that would give the Junior Kiwis the lead.
But the game was far from over with only seconds left on the clock. A late tackle on the Junior Kangaroos kicker being hit with a late shoulder charge giving Gutherson a chance to boot the Australian’s to victory after the final siren. Forty metres out and with the rain pouring down, Gutherson’s attempt was unsuccessful, giving the Junior Kiwis a 15-14 win.
Junior Kiwis 15 (Sam Manuleleua, Chance Peni, Kodi Nikorima tries; Zach Dockar-Clay 1 goal, Te Maire Martin 1 field goal)
Junior Kangaroos 14 (Valentine Holmes 2, Jake Mamo, tries; Clint Gutherson 1 goal)