Siosifa Talakai’s Junior Kiwis were defeated 34-20 by the Junior Roos at Pirtek Stadium in what proved to be a tough match for both sides.
Rabbitohs backrower, Talakai was instrumental for his side in their loss, featuring prominently in both attack and defence and scoring a try in the process.
The opening period of the match saw both sides adopt a conservative style of play, with high completion rates and solid defence the key focus. It was not until the 13th minute that the deadlock was broken, with the Junior Roos making the most of their attacking opportunity to opening the scoring courtesy of JJ Felise, who barged his way over next to the uprights. Nathan Cleary added the extras to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Soon after, the Kangaroos crossed once again with the Kiwis unable to prevent Dylan Edwards from providing a cut-out ball for Curtis Scott, who dived over out wide. Nathan Cleary was unable to repeat the success of his first kick, leaving the score at 10-0.
Despite all of the momentum being with the green and gold, a piggy-back penalty up the field would result in the New Zealanders registering the next points of the match as Brad Abbey provided brilliant service to Ken Tofilau who scored out wide. Abbey’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the score at 10-4 in favour of the Australians.
Buoyed by their first points of the afternoon, the Junior Kiwis found themselves back in attacking field position after a line-break from interchange hooker, Nathaniel Roache. With penalties ensuing as the Australian defence scrambled, Ma’afoaeta Hingano made the most of the repeat sets, dummying close to the line and muscling his way over for a four-pointer. Hingano was able to convert his own try, with the score remaining at 10-8.
As half-time loomed, both sides failed to further impact the scoreboard despite securing attacking opportunities, meaning that the Roos would head into the break leading 10-8.
On resumption, it would be the Kangaroos that would extend their lead after Brian Kelly pounced on a loose ball close to the Kiwis try-line. Nathan Cleary had no issues adding the extras, providing his side with a 16-8 lead.
Similarly to the first-half, the Kangaroos would score their second try of the stanza in quick succession, as Connor Watson darted from dummy-half, bouncing off defenders before lunging over to score. The points were added from in front by Cleary, leaving the score at 22-8.
With the game slipping away from the Kiwis, Ma’afoaeta Hingano showcased some individual brilliance to get his side back into the contest, kicking for himself before regathering and crossing for his second try. Jamayne Isaako added the extra two points narrowing the gap and leaving the score at 22-14.
The Junior Roos would hit back when Nathan Cleary showed some brilliant strength close to the line, stretching out to plant the ball and place his side back in a comfortable position. Cleary continued his strong night with the boot, converting his try and setting up a 28-14 score line.
Soon after, it appeared that Jamayne Isaako had reduced the deficit for the Kiwis, as the pivot finished off some enterprising attacking play before his effort was deemed to be a no try by the video referee.
The game was all but over for the Kiwis as Kanagroos centre, Robert Jennings, added to the scoreboard and dashed any hope of a New Zealand comeback. Once again, Cleary added the extra points taking the score to 34-14
It appeared that the Junior Roos were not done just yet, as Tevita Pangai Junior crashed over in the corner before the try was denied upon review by the video referee.
The Kiwis would score a consolation try, with Siosifa Talakai rewarded for his solid performances throughout the match, barging his way over from close range. The try was converted by Isaako, leaving the final score at 34-20 to the Australians.
Junior Kangaroos 30 (JJ Felise, Curtis Scott, Brian Kelly, Connor Watson, Nathan Cleary, Robert Jennings. tries; Nathan Cleary 5, goals)
Junior Kiwis 8 (Ken Tofilau, Ma’afoaeta Hingano 2 tries; Jamayne Isaako 2, goals)