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NAILBITING WIN TO JUNIOR KIWIS

The Junior Kiwis showed great resolve in their annual showdown with the Junior Kangaroos, coming out on top 15-14 in an absolute nail-biter at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.celebrate web

Right from the start, the stage was set for a classic trans-Tasman tussle, as both sides stood eyeball-to-eyeball during the traditional pre-game haka.

Despite the cold, greasy spring conditions, it took barely five minutes for the Junior Kangaroos to open their account. Ex-Junior Kiwi Valentine Holmes powered over the line to set his team-mate Clint Gutherson up for the conversion.

Just over 15 minutes later, a gaping overlap allowed Watson Heleta room to find the in-goal area for New Zealand, but Zach Dockar-Clay's conversion attempt went just to the side.

The burst of enthusiasm was kept alive, when Chance Peni lunged for the right corner and scored a desperate try.

Five minutes into the second half, it appeared the wind had left the sails of several players - not so for Kiwi fullback Kodi Nikorima, who sprinted to the ever-popular right-hand side to score.

In typical green-and-gold fashion, the Aussie onslaught resumed shortly afterwards, when Holmes grabbed his second four-pointer of the night to even the score 14-all.

As the match carried on, neither the rain nor the brutal physicality waned.

Minutes out from the final whistle, the Junior Kiwis attempted a field-goal, which was nudged off past the paintwork. Down the other end, Gutherson responded with his own similar attempt that turned out to be fizzer.

Barely a minute from the last siren, Dockar-Clay broke the line and tore off for the posts, only to line Te Maire Martin up for an easy field goal.

"We don't have to practice things like that. These kids are professional footballers, they know it's a one-point situation and the message has gone out," Junior Kiwis coach Brent Gemmell said on the field-goal situation.

Just when it looked over for all money, the New Zealanders were penalised for a late shoulder charge on halfback Ryan Matterson. Gutherson's shot from 40 metres out was painfully close to going over.

"There's enough football talent on the field. We just strung those posession stats the right way," he said.

Despite the trying weather conditions, Gemmell said he was very pleased with his side's ball play and execution.

Junior Kiwis 15 (Watson Heleta, Chance Peni & Kohi Nikorima tries; Zach Docker-Clay goal; Te Matre Martin field goal) Junior Kangaroos 14 (Valentine Holmes 2 tries; Clint Gutherson 3 goals); HT: 8-6

Pic by Photosport (www.photosport.co.nz)