Vodafone Warriors back rower Dredin Sorensen-McGee was named MVP for the New Zealand Select 18s ide in its brave 18-26 loss to the Australian Schoolboys at Puketawhero Park in Rotorua last night.
And while Vodafone Warriors development and recruitment coach Tony Iro was impressed with Sorensen-McGee so did the club’s other players involved in the contest.
“From our perspective, we were really pleased with all our boys’ efforts against Australia’s best elite junior players,” said Iro.
“Dredin was a stand-out. We identified him at last year’s open trial. He’s a wonderful kid who has taken advantage of his opportunities and worked really hard throughout the season.
“Another to stand out was Seth Tauamiti, who we recently signed from Papanui Tigers and St Thomas of Canterbury College. He came off the bench and made a real impact. He’s a big strong prop with plenty of leg drive and with an off-season could become a valuable player for our 20s next year.
“Lewis Sio and Sheldon Rogers, who shared the hooking duties, also performed strongly in the very wet conditions.”
While the New Zealand Select 18s went down to the Australian Schoolboys last night, the Kiwi team didn’t want for heart and effort.
The winner was always going to be the side adjusted best to the wet conditions – and was the Australian Schoolboys.
They dominated possession in the first half leading to first points on the board for Ky Rodwell in the opening 15 minutes.
After preventing several more assaults from the Australian Schoolboys, the battling New Zealand defensive line let in a converted James Roumanos try, which took who took the score out to 12-0.
Twenty-five minutes into the first half, New Zealand hit back with a try from Vodafone Warriors hooker Sio, who sneaked through the Australians’ defence.
However, the Australian Schoolboys weren’t silenced for long as their classy second rower David Fifita crossed for their third try extending the lead to 18-6. Fafita’s outstanding performance would see him named his side’s MVP at the post-game award ceremony.
After being awarded a penalty minutes before halftime, the Australians took the two points with Zac Lomax kicking the penalty to leave New Zealand trailing 6-20 at the break.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with Luke Huth scoring in the opening 10 to enable the visitors to jump to a 26-6 lead.
Then came the time for New Zealand’s secret weapon to make his presence felt.
The minute South Islander Tauamiti stepped on the field, he made an impact. His impressive physicality was punctuated by several line-bending hit ups which ultimately resulted in a well-deserved try. With Baylee Bentley-Hape converting the margin was reduced to 12-26.
The New Zealanders’ momentum grew as they regained more possession with a try to Dray Ngatuere-Wroe and another Bentley-Hape conversion closing the gap to 26-18.
Despite being presented with a couple of opportunities on the Australians’ line, the home side struggled to adjust to the wet conditions.
An incredible line dropout from the Australians that saw the ball hurtled all the way to the opposite end of the field had the New Zealanders back on defence.
But their never-say-die attitude saw them turn the ball over for one more shot at a four-pointer. New Zealand’s Kayal Iro almost managed to tip-toe down the right wing but was forced into touch moments before planting the ball.
Preventing one last try-scoring attempt from the Australians left the score-line at 26-18 with Australian Schoolboys coach Tony Adam more than happy with the end result.
“It was an extremely physical contest where our boys were bombarded by a strong New Zealand attack. We also managed to adapt well to the wet conditions,” said Adam.
“Our side did well to keep turning up even when the Kiwi boys came at them with seven repeat sets. Before the match against the New Zealand 18s on Saturday, we’ll go away and reflect on our game structures. We’ve still got improvements to make before then.”
The result may not have gone their way but New Zealand Select 18s head coach Rangi Hiroti was pleased with his team’s gutsy performance.
“I’m proud of how the boys fought back in the second half after the Australians controlled play in the first 40 minutes,” he said.
“We applied a lot of pressure forcing turnovers and repeat sets to get us back in the game. To me, that goes to show that our boys put it all out on the field.”
If the clash is anything to go by, spectators are in for an action-packed game on Saturday morning at Trusts Arena when the Australian Schoolboys will come up against the top New Zealand 18s side at 11.30am.
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
New Zealand Select 18s 18 (Dray Ngatuere-Wroe, Lewis Sio, Seth Tauamiti tries; Baylee Bentley-Hape 3 conversions).
Australian Schoolboys 26 (Ky Rodwell, David Fifita, Luke Huth, James Roumanos tries; Zac Lomax 4 conversions; Zac Lomax penalty).
New Zealand Select 18s | Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard; Aublix Tawha, Kea Pere, Zaan Weatherall (co-captain), Awatere Kiwara; Baylee Bentley-Hape, Dray Ngatuere-Wroe (captain); Wesley Veikoso, Sheldon Rodgers, Ranapiri Tau; Javvier Pitovao, Dredin Sorensen-McGee; Phillip Makatoa. Interchange: Kayal Iro, Lewis Sio, Daniel Sakisi, Seth Tauamiti. 18th man: Mike Williams. 19th man: Mark Tepu-Smith.
Australian Schoolboys | Dylan Smith; Campbell Graham (co-captain), Bronson Xerri, Zac Lomax (co-captain), Ethan Parry; Tanah Boyd, Haze Dunster; Ky Rodwell, Kyle Schneider, Shawn Blore; Teig Wilton, David Fifita; Lindsay Smith. Interchange: Luke Huth, Jesse Cronin, James Roumanos, Spencer Leniu.