It was a try fest at Whenuapai Air Force base as the Royal New Zealand Air Force took on the NZ Police Open Men’s at the annual Heroes Rugby League Tournament.  

The NZ Police opened the scoring with a strong run down the right edge to make it 6 – 0 after 15 minutes. Ill-discipline from the Air Force gifted possession back to the Police as they stumbled over for their second only moments after.  

Strong meters up the middle saw the Police back in the opposition 20 and a dummy half duck under the posts resulted in the Police extending their lead to 16. 

The battle up the middle evened out as the Air Force found their feet, a couple of impressive line breaks saw the Air Force in good attacking position. The Air Force soon capitalised on their attacking momentum and mounted their first points with 10 to go in the first half.  

The Police force hit back impressively earning a repeat set, however, a forward pass cut their attacking efforts short. Some ill-discipline from the Police saw the Air Force back on their goal line as they barged over to make it 10 – 16 at half time. 

The Police were quick to open the scoring in the second half extending their lead back to 10 however the Air Force quickly answered back. A conversion miss by the Air Force meant they still trailed by 6 with 30 to go.  

The Police then stepped up a gear for the remainder of the half scoring five back to back tries impressively extending their lead by 28.  

Despite the momentum shift, the Air Force bounced back off some good meters up the middle barging over for their fifth try. Strong defence then earned the Air Force more attacking possession as superb support play saw them score the final try of the match.  

Final score – Royal New Zealand Air Force (24) v NZ Police Open Men’s (48) 

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The ANZAC bonds between New Zealand and Australian soldiers based at Iraq’s Camp Taji remain as strong as ever except perhaps on the rugby league pitch.

In a charity league match held on a sweltering ANZAC Day, New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel beat their Australian counterparts 32-20.

“Both teams played with passion, despite the heat and the hard surface they had to play on. It was all good fun and for a good cause, and the camaraderie was great,” Task Group Taji’s Regimental Sergeant Major said.

The NZDF and Australian Defence Force teams wore national team jerseys donated by the New Zealand Rugby League and the National Rugby League, respectively.

The charity league match raised US$2,373 (about NZ$3,350) for the New Zealand Fallen Heroes Trust, an organisation that provides support for the families of military personnel killed or injured on operations overseas, and US$2,638(about NZ$3,720) for Legacy Australia, an Australian charity supporting families of service personnel.

About 100 New Zealand and 300 Australian troops comprise Task Group Taji, the combined New Zealand-Australian training mission which has trained around 34,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel since May 2015.