New Zealand starts title defence on a high note

2019 Oceania Rugby Under 20s Championship at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia. New Zealand v Fiji. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

DISCIPLINE problems cost the Vodafone Fiji U20 side the opening game as they went down to defending champion New Zealand 53-7 in the first game of the 2019 U20 Oceania Championship at the Bond University Rugby Club ground in Gold Coast, Australia last night.

Despite the loss head coach Kele Leawere said the tournament was a learning process for his players.

“It’s a learning curve for the players,” Leawere said. “It is important for the boys to come here and see the standard that they are playing in, in order to compete against the best especially heading into the Junior World Cup.”

New Zealand got their first points of the half through a penalty from right in front through the flyhalf Furgus Burke after 20 minutes in the first half.

Sam Gilbert crossed over two minutes later in the corner for New Zealand’s first try. A New Zealand error inside their 22 metre saw captain Tevita Ikanivere tap the ball and some free-flowing passing found openside wing Kaminieli Rasaku split the defence to dot down for Fiji’s first try in the 36th minutes.

Scrum half Simione Kuruvoli added the extras as the Fijians trailed 8-7.

New Zealand retaliated immediately in the 38th minute with a grubber kick inside Fiji’s 22 metre line which bounced kindly for outside centre Quinn Tupaea who had to drag a few Fijians defenders for a try under the sticks with Burke adding the extras to end the first half with New Zealand ahead 15-7.

The downfall for Fiji began two minutes into the second spell when blindside wing Epeli Momo was red-carded for a dangerous tackle in the 42nd minute.

New Zealand took quick advantage scoring 38 unanswered points in the second half to win the match 53-7.

Fiji will play Australia next Tuesday at 7pm at the Bond University Rugby Club ground.

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