The Junior Kiwis celebrate their famous 36-20 win over the Junior Kangaroos in Rotorua in 2010. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

After a four-year break the Junior Kiwis at last face their Australian counterparts on New Zealand soil in Saturday night’s one-off international at Mount Smart Stadium (7.00pm kick-off; tickets $5.00 at gate for adults, children 12 and under free).

The last time the Junior Kiwis hosted their rivals was in Rotorua in the second game of a two-match series in 2010, an occasion which immediately evokes memories of an astonishing performance by the Junior Kiwis.

They’d lost the first match 16-24 in Wellington and it seemed there would be just one outcome when the Junior Kangaroos led 20-0 at halftime in Rotorua. What happened next was amazing in the extreme.

Fielding a side with no fewer than nine Vodafone Warriors, the Junior Kiwis would come thundering back at the Australians. The comeback, though, was founded not on one single act of attacking brilliance but rather a defensive play of the highest order.

It was early in the second half when Australian fullback Dane Gagai collected a kick behind his line, split the defence and raced clear. A try seemed inevitable, one which would have taken the Junior Kangaroos out to possibly a 26-0 lead.

Instead Junior Kiwis captain Martin Taupau came from the clouds; it almost defied belief that he could give the fleet-footed Gagai such a huge start yet still haul him down – but remarkably he did. While he conceded a penalty for carrying on with the tackle, his feat inspired his troops.

They built off it, erupting by scoring six tries – 36 unanswered points – in the space of 22 minutes to win the match 36-20.

Victories by the Junior Kiwis over the Junior Kangaroos are uncommon but, having won in Rotorua in 2010, they followed up with a muscular display in Newcastle a year later. After going to halftime 10-12 behind they came out galvanised in the second half, battering the Australians to win 28-16 (the Junior Kangaroos then captained by current Vodafone Warrior Chad Townsend).

The 2011 Junior Kiwis had 10 Vodafone Junior Warriors and their line-up also included Josh Papalii, who has since turned his back on his country of birth to represent Australia. After playing in Newcastle in 2011, the Junior Kiwis met the Australians in Townsville in 2012 and in Sydney last year.

Of the players who appeared in the two under-20 internationals the Junior Kiwis won in 2010 and 2011, most have gone on to play in the NRL while a number have also represented the Kiwis or Kangaroos at Test level (or are about to). Others have represented Toa Samoa, Mate Ma’a Tonga or Cook Islands.

Shaun Johnson, Taupau, Siliva Havili, Tohu Harris, Jason Taumalolo and Sosaia Feki are all in the New Zealand squad for the Four Nations starting next weekend. Also included is Gerard Beale who played for the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis in the two-match series in 2010.

Named in Australia’s Four Nations team are Josh Jackson – involved in both the 2010 and 2011 clashes – Boyd Cordner and Papalii.  

JUNIOR KIWIS | BEATING AUSTRALIA 2010 AND 2011

October 30, 2010

International Stadium, Rotorua

Junior Kiwis 36 (Lama Tasi, Drury Low, Nafe Seluini, Martin Taupau, Siuatonga Likiliki, Carlos Tuimavave tries; Shaun Johnson 6 conversions).

Junior Kangaroos 20 (Michael Oldfield, Josh Jackson, Dane Gagai, Justin O’Neill tries; Cameron King 2 conversions).

Halftime: 20-0 Junior Kangaroos.

Referee: Shane Rehm (New Zealand).

Junior Kiwis: Glen Fisiiahi; Bill Tupou, Siuatonga Likiliki, Drury Low, Kane Morgan; Carlos Tuimavave, Shaun Johnson; Mark Ioane, Matthew McIlwrick, Martin Taupau (c); Sam Mataora, Lama Tasi; Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Nafe Seluini, Sam Lousi, Isaac Maliota, Paki Afu. Coach: David Kidwell.

Junior Kangaroos: Dane Gagai; Michael Oldfield, Justin O’Neill, Ben Jones (c), Nathan Massey; Corey Norman, Sam Williams; James Cunningham, Cameron King, Tariq Sims; Mark Nicholls, Josh Jackson; Gerard Beale. Interchange: Dominic Walsh, Mark Appleton, Matthew Wright, Kyle O’Donnell. Coach: David Hamilton.

October 16, 2011

At Ausgrid Stadium, Newcastle

Junior Kiwis 28 (Sebastine Ikahihifo 2, John Palavi, Michael Parker-Walshe, Wayne Ulugia tries; Siliva Havili 3 conversions; Sio Siua Taukeiaho conversion).

Junior Kangaroos 16 (Dane Gagai, Stewart Mills, Kane Evans tries; Chad Townsend 2 conversions).

Halftime: 12-10 Junior Kangaroos.

Referee: Adam Gee (Australia).

Junior Kiwis: Omar Slaimankhel; Wayne Ulugia, Sosaia Feki, Adam Henry, Andrew Pelasio; Carlos Tuimavave (c), Michael Parker-Walshe; Josh Papalii, Siliva Havili, Ben Murdoch-Masila; Tohu Harris, Jason Taumalolo; Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Sam Lousi, John Palavi, Kenneath Bromwich, Agnatius Paasi. Coach: David Kidwell.

Junior Kangaroos: Dane Gagai; Kyle Feldt, Mosese Pangai, Tautau Moga, Stewart Mills; Jacob Miller, Chad Townsend (c); Matt Groat, Cameron King, Jack De Belin; Josh Jackson, Boyd Cordner; Dale Finucane. Interchange: Nathan Massey, Alex McKinnon, Kane Evans, Ethan Lowe, Tyrone Roberts. Coach: Andrew Patmore.