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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.
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
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
"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)