The New Zealand 16s come back from a 6-2 deficit at halftime to beat the Toa Resident 16s, 24-10.
It was a double act from the twins, Lani Graham-Taufa and Moala Graham-Taufa who both bagged four pointers aided by tries from both Jarney Proctor-Harwood and Mase Carson too. However, only one twin will take home bragging rights – Lani Graham-Taufa picking up Most Valuable Player for the New Zealand 16s side.
But, if the first 20 minutes were anything to go by, the NZ 16s were in for a tough run against a firing Samoan side. The first set saw the Toa Resident 16s five metres out from New Zealand’s try-line as a result of their powerhouse forwards providing the muscle up front. However, close wasn’t close enough, New Zealand regaining possession to make up the metres lost earlier.
New Zealand’s first attempt at crossing the line was plagued by nerves and jitters when the ball was finally lost forward a metre out from the line. Fortunately, five minutes later the boys in black and white put first points on the board with gun half, Sione Moala kicking a successful penalty goal. That was then matched minutes later with a penalty goal to Samoa booted over by Joshua Setefano.
Two points turned into six when the Toa Resident 16s crossed for the first try of the match when Evander Tere-Rongotaua scored off the back of his left wingers ground-work punching a hole in the home side’s defence.
New Zealand had the opportunity to score another two penalty points right on the halftime hooter but Moala’s kick was unsuccessful sending his team into the sheds with the score sitting at 6-2 to Samoa.
Whatever Head Coach Bejay Hewitt said to his team at halftime must have worked as New Zealand came out with a vengeance crossing for the first try of the second half in Mase Carson, score 6-all. With a conversion from Sione Moala, New Zealand took the lead for the first time, 8-6 and never looked back.
After a break on the bench, local Pikiao hooker, Dayna Bidois got a hometown cheer as he stormed back on the field to bring his team home.
The lead gave the NZ 16s the boost they needed to take intensity levels up a notch. Some fantastic work from New Zealand’s right edge saw them cross the line three more times to push their lead out to 24-10 come the final whistle.
New Zealand 16s 24 (Lani Graham-Taufa, Moala Graham-Taufa, Jarney Proctor-Harwood, Mase Carson tries; Sione Moala 3 goals; Sione Moala Penalty Goal) Toa Resident 16s 10 (Evander Tere-Rongotaua, Jeff Tatapu Leilua tries; Joshua Setefano Penalty Goal)
Evander Tere-Rongotaua – Toa Resident 16s MVP
Lani Graham-Taufa – New Zealand 16s MVP