To the delight of rugby fans in Australia, the Junior Wallabies ‘finally got the bogey off their back’ as they held firm against New Zealand, to claim the 2019 Oceania Rugby U20s Championship.
Broadcast via a Livestream feed right across Oceania, this fixture on a popular Saturday night wasn’t what Last Word on Rugby reporter Jovilisi Waqa expected to do [as his favorite Super Rugby team the Blues were going to play the ACT Brumbies the same night]. Under 20s rugby has a grassroots appeal, which leading up to the annual World Rugby U20 Championship tournament, had major appeal across the Pacific.
Enjoying Fiji overpower Japan in the second half of a fast-paced entertaining game, a match which accumulated 96 points on the board, with Fiji the winner 59-37. Played at the Bond University hiGrounds, on the Gold Coast of Australia, the crowd was building, in anticipation of the tournament deciding clash.
2019 Oceania Rugby U20s Championship ‘grand finale’
By 9pm, New Zealand and Australia started their match; mind you, like some Jovi was only going to watch the first half of this game. But lo and behold, he and many others ended up enthralled by the whole game. Such was the intensity and unpredictability of the game, it was one you just have to watch until the end.
From the team list provided by Oceania Rugby, some will have noticed that the Kiwis have rested many of their stars like Chay Fihaki, Taufa Funaki, Danny Toala, Rivez Reihana, Kaliopasa Uluilakepa, and Taine Plumtree. An intriguing decision, and when team lists change so significantly it can lead to unpredictable results.
It was, the Kiwis did not expect what was thrown at them. New Zealand has to acknowledge the rugby witnessed on Saturday from hosts Australia, was more than they were prepared for. The 24-0 scoreline underlines that fact.
New Zealand ‘Baby Blacks’ were undoubted favorites but, when you see Australian rugby fluctuating wildly across domestic and International competitions over the past few seasons, even a die-hard Fijian would want something better for them. To be competitive for once, and finally, the Junior Wallabies showed that.
The resilience, the belief, the attitude, the focus, the camaraderie was sensational. Even when the Kiwis called for reinforcements from their bench in the second half, the young Aussies stood tall.
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) May 6, 2019
Junior Wallabies show Senior Aussie teams ‘real grit’
From Sevens rugby to Super Rugby, Men’s and Women’s teams alike, the Junior Wallabies have shown the others, there is a way to defeat New Zealand. Not only how to be the best U20 side in Oceania – even when the odds are against you. Shouting loudly, ‘your new dawn can still rise from the ashes’.
“To do it (win) on home soil in front of family and friends for the first time in this tournament is awesome, and I’m just lost for words,” Fraser McCreight explained to Oceania Rugby.
“It’s just been an awesome effort from the boys to keep a New Zealand side for a full eighty with a yellow card. I think it just goes to show the amount of effort we’ve put into it this year and it’s a huge win and this is so good.”
Australia can take a huge amount of confidence from this outcome. Of how they played, performed and the processes needed to win.
To win against a Kiwi side is a tough ask BUT to keep them scoreless, is pricelss.
That shows real character, with so much drama off-field currently for Rugby Australia. So the 24-0 victory over the Kiwis will bring back some glory to the now struggling nation, in an important Rugby World Cup year.
New Zealand ‘Baby Blacks’ have to reflect on loss
The New Zealand team will still be reflecting on a big loss. Kianu Kereru-Symes reacted, when speaking to Oceania Rugby. He said “We didn’t front up, and Australia did and they deserve the win. So we are going back to the drawing board, recover and get ready ahead of preparations to the World Rugby Under 20 Championship.
“I think the most important thing is that we remember that this is not the World Cup, this is not the final preparation for this squad. So we will regroup from here and get better,” he added.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) May 4, 2019
Both sides must now reflect on the positives and negatives, learned across the three-game tournament.
Full 2019 Oceania Rugby U20s Championship results:
Round One -26/04/2019
- New Zealand 53 Fiji 7
- Australia 64 Japan 14
Round Two – 30/04/2019
- New Zealand 87 Japan 12
- Australia 16 Fiji 0
Round Three – 04/05/2019
- Fiji 59 Japan 37
- Australia 24 New Zealand 0
2019 Tournament: plenty of new names emerge
Where do we start? With the new champions ending the four-year reign of the All Blacks U20s, it is a worthy platform for the young stars of Oceania Rugby to showcase their talents. Admittedly, the Oceania tournament may not be as strong and competitive as the Six Nations U20s but, these boys are as competitive, as they are talented.
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) April 24, 2019
Australian U20 new stars
Think prop forward Josh Nasser to the fiery loose-trio Harry Wilson, Fraser McCreight and Will Harris, the Junior Wallabies have emerged with stronger goals in 2019.
That is down to having young talent, in the right place. Note the distribution game of the halves, Michael McDonald and Will Harrison; who was sublime in his kicking. The center pairing of Noah Lelesio and Melbourne Rebels star Semisi Tupou are men who can offer much to the future of the Australian backline. Add in Isaac Lucas at fullback, and Fijian winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, who performed on the Oceania Rugby stage.
Fellow Aussie winger Tristan Reilly had a great battle on the flanks with All Blacks Sevens star, Scott Gregory. Reilly took up the challenge, and was part of the winning group across the three matches.
For Fiji, they can reflect on their close loss to the Junior Wallabies, as their highlight of the 2019 Oceania Rugby U20s Championship. Names to look for in the future are, flankers Alivereti Loaloa and Vilive Miramira, five-eigths Caleb Muntz and Waqs Kuruvoli. Inside center Isaia Droasese and nippy fullback Osea Waqa. Fiji captain Tevita Ikanivere spoke to Oceania Rugby.
— Oceania Rugby (@oceaniarugby) May 4, 2019
He said “It’s really good to have a win under our belt and also compete against New Zealand and Australia who we might meet in the World Rugby U20 Championship.
“For us now it’s about going back and continue to work hard as we prepare for the Championship in June.”
Shota Fukui was the standout for Japan U20s. The Asian side, who had to dig deep in every game, did their nation proud. Taking the experience of playing three of the teams who compete at the elite level of World Rugby, is going to be invaluable.
Remember the names we have mentioned above. Those, and many many more, will rise up during the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship held in Argentina, June 4-22.
“Main photo credit”
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