Saturday 22 July, 2017 

Puketawhero Park, Rotorua

Rain, hail and tornados were predicted for the Bay of Plenty but the stormy weather pressed pause at Rotorua’s Puketawhero Park for the NZ Resident 16s v NZ Maori 17s clash on Saturday.

Three years on from the NZ Resident 16s win against Samoa, the side picked up exactly where their predecessors left off with another win to add to the collection.

Despite playing up an age group, the NZ Resident 16s stole a 32-28 victory over the NZ Maori 17s, providing a thrilling game of footy for spectators.

With NZ 16s half Nathaneal Sasagi opening the scoring with a try in the first 30 seconds, the NZ 16s sent a message to their opposition that they meant business. This was backed up with a conversion from fullback Tuinamo Tepulolo who finished the game with a 100 percent success rate at goal.

NZ 16s hooker Temple Kalepo was rewarded for his hard work 10 minutes later when he crossed the line for his side’s second try of the game taking the score to 12-0 after another successful conversion.

Just as the 16s were getting comfortable the NZ Maori 17s hit back with a try to Tyrin Ona-Murphy. Their captain Jordan Riki joined the action shortly after with another converted try to the NZ Maori 17s levelling the score at 12 all.

It looked like they would head to the changing rooms equal at halftime but the NZ Maori 17s had other ideas – the halftime score was 18-12 to the NZ Maori 17s.

The second half saw the Maoris come out firing as they gained a 24-12 lead with an aggressive attacking game and tight defence that halted the 16s’ momentum from the first half. Caleb Pese and South Islander Caius Fa’atili came to the rescue for the 16s managing to level the score 24 all with two converted tries and only 15 minutes left on the clock.

Supporters were on the edge of their seats as both teams scrambled to string together set plays. Composure and strength in the forwards paid off for the NZ 16s who sent Nathaneal Sasagi over the line for his second try of the game. Ten minutes out from the full time whistle NZ 16s were leading 30-24, in front for the first time since the first half.

A successful penalty kick from the classy Tuinamo Tepulolo extended their lead to 32-24 with only minutes to play. A last minute try from the NZ Maori 17s wasn’t enough to overtake the victorious NZ 16s who took home a 32-28 win.

For video interviews and to watch a replay of the livestream, click here

New Zealand Resident 16s 32 (Nathaneal Sasagi 2, Temple Kalepo, Caius Fa’atili, Caleb Pese tries; Tuinamo Tepulolo 5 goals; Tuinamo Tepulolo penalty) New Zealand Maori 17s 28 (Te Mana Te Maari, Wipere Takitumu, Tyrin Ona Murphy, Jordan Riki, Tane Wiki tries; Samuel Kamu, Leighman Hohaia Katene 3 goals)


NZRL Awards:

New Zealand 16s MVP: Leroy Ferguson

New Zealand Maori 17s MVP: Wipere Takitumu

NZ 16s team:

1 Tuinamo Tepulolo
2 Rayna Whaakari
3 Jonah Polata-Kopa
4 Junior Tuleisu
5 Marco Talagi
6 Xavier Stevens-Teo
7 Simi Sasagi
8 Leroy Fergusson
9 Temple Kalepo
10 Caius Faa’tili
11 Christian Tuipulotu
12 Aamon Dean
13 Semisi Tapa
14 Kaya Cuthers
15 Caleb Pese
16 Diaz Taihia
17 Griffin Neame
18 Jyris Glaumuzina
19 Cezia James