Team Fisher-Harris proved too good for Team Papali’i at the final hooter of the 16s trial, final score reading 24-16.
16s selectors will have their hands full separating the talent after a hard fought battle where the players put their best foot forward.
Ben Peni from Team Fisher-Harris put the first four points on the board off the back of some outstanding forward momentum from the props. That was converted by Benaiah Ioelu, the beginning of what turned out to be a stellar performance from the Akarana representative.
It didn’t take long for Team Papali’i to add to the scoreboard with their captain Stanley Ionga, stand-out player from the 2018 National Youth Tournament and TDP, crossing the try line, which was then converted by Francis Manuleleua.
It was clear there was a lot of defensive work done alongside specialist coaches, Ben Gardiner and Nathan Cayless, with line speed looking impressive also.
Ben Peni’s strong efforts were evident, him identifying the holes in his opposition’s defensive line, and capitalising with his second try.
Another name that was on the lips of spectators was stand-off from Team Papali’i, Francis Manuleleua, his footwork turning heads as he tip-toed around anyone that tried to take him on.
Some players copped the wrath of Zion Maiu’u’s force as he ran over the defensive line to earn some much needed metres.
Both teams were guilty of several errors in their own 10 metre zones, and it was the team who took advantage of this that won out.
His boot was on form today, and so were Benaiah Ioelu’s try-scoring abilities, coming up successful for Team Fisher-Harris inching their lead ahead once again followed by a successful conversion from Esmonde Parangi.
A kick chase from Team Papali’I looked like more points were imminent but a fumble sealed their fate and they were back on the offensive – but, not for long.
A sniff of the try-line was all Francis Manuleleua needed scoring in the right-hand corner for Team Papali’i. His teammate Te Wano Ngamotu-Tahana got his slice if the pie too scoring before Manuleleua converted again closing the gap in the scoreline to 18-16.
However, one more converted try from Team Fisher-Harris sealed the fate of the game, Zion Maiu’u having the last say – the final score being 24-16 to team Fisher-Harris.
Team Lauiti’iti take the win at the Talent Development Programme 18s trial
Semisi Tapa was always going to be a strong contender in the 18s trial, and a try in the first few minutes only confirmed that.
Minutes later Elijah Tuhura joined the party, with another try for Lauiti’iti. Successfully converted the score read, 10-0.
Kicking would be a crucial part of the game given the talent going head-to-head in a tight clash – Brooklyn Herewini the MVP of the TDP last year making the conversion.
A penalty to Team Wiki, threw them the lifeline they needed, the blue team struggling to make it past the half way mark. But, the opportunity was missed with several rogue passes.
Team Wiki fired up though, Semisi Sikei scoring with Brooklyn Herewini making it two from two with the boot after his first conversion of Naufahu Whyte’s try earlier. However, a fumble on their try-line resulted in the ball going dead and perhaps, not the most desirable restart after their try, a line drop out to follow.
But, Team Lauiti’iti came up with an error too giving Team Wiki a sigh of relief.
It was only a matter of time before Tuki Simpkins would make it over the line, and he did just that – successfully converted by Sione Moala.
Team Wiki fought and fought, and Sean Field finally got through the brick Lauiti’iti defence levelling the scoreboard, 16-16, with a kick to come – Tyrone Waipouri making it look like clock work pushing Team Wiki out in front for the first time, 18-16.
Team Wiki didn’t have time to kick themselves for the error on their try-line, with an absolutely outstanding 100 metre intercept try from Daeon Amituanai, the heat proving no obstacle for the boys in blue. That was converted by Tyrone Waipouri right before the second quarter break.
At the beginning of the final quarter was an error for Team Wiki, of course, well received by Team Lauiti’iti who were looking to get more points on the board. And, it was Paea Fotu who took one for the team and Caius Fa’atili who converted taking the score to 22-22. But Fotu wasn’t finished, minutes later he scored again and Fa’atili followed suit with the boot, the score reading 28-22.
The goalkicker Fa’atili, was also the one taking the first hit-ups being one of a few props in the game who also have a reliable boot.
Sean Field then hit back for Team Wiki with his second try of the day but the conversion bounced off the posts.
Konrad Tu’a worked his way around the field nicely in the halves but he also found himself scoring under the posts, the conversion being unsuccessful, 32-26.
Elijah Tuhura struck for his second try of the day also, right before the final whistle with a conversion from Quinnlan Tupou, the final score reading 38-26.