NZ Under 20s blanked by Australia

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Campbell Burnes     04 May 2019     Getty Images

So impressive midweek in the 87-12 shellacking of Junior Japan, New Zealand struck a brick-wall defence from the Junior Wallabies, who were hungrier, more accurate and more committed, both with and without the ball.

Australia took a 12-0 lead to the halftime break, courtesy of four penalty goals by No 10 Will Harrison. The home side exerted early pressure on New Zealand, and sustained it throughout the encounter.

New Zealand right wing Lalomilo Lalomilo, so deadly against Japan, was pressured into an early handling mistake. He partially made amends with a storming 50m that was snuffed out in the corner by a trysaving tackle by Australian fullback Isaac Lucas, an indication of the commitment brought by the home side in this rare win over their trans-Tasman counterparts.

On the left wing, Scott Gregory made some useful charges, but there was a distinct lack of cohesion and accuracy from New Zealand.

Things did not get better in the second spell, though a yellow card to Australian No 8 Will Harris should have given them impetus for a comeback. Sadly, though some spark was provided by replacements Taufa Funaki at halfback and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa at prop, the Australian pack took control at both the set-piece and collisions, forcing some very loose passing.

Australian wing Triston Reilly latched onto a pinpoint crosskick to outjump Gregory and score the first try. That was slightly against the run of play, but the next try to captain and openside flanker Fraser McReight was not. He converted from a solid driving maul.
There was much jubilation at fulltime after the Junior Wallabies had denied New Zealand a fourth straight Oceania title in thoroughly deserving fashion.

New Zealand and Australia will now ramp up preparations for next month’s World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Argentina.

In the curtainraiser, Fiji clinched third place with a 59-37 victory over Junior Japan.

Junior Wallabies 24 (Triston Reilly, Fraser McReight tries; Will Harrison con, 4 pen) New Zealand Under 20s 0 HT: 12-0 Australia