Auckland U-19s take title
Auckland have turned in a strong second-half performance to beat Waikato 30-17 in the final of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under-19 Tournament and claim the Graham Mourie Cup.
They had been dominant all week at Owen Delany Park in Taupo¯, beating Manawatu¯ 71-5 and Canterbury 44-10 in their first two matches, but faced a tougher examination on Saturday, from a Waikato team that hung with them for a half, but no longer.
Auckland become the fourth different province to win the tournament, which is in its fourth year, joining Wellington, Canterbury, and Waikato, who were the defending champions.
Having let a 12-point lead slip at the end of the first half, Auckland went back in front four minutes into the second half, when playmaker Wiseguy Faiane broke through Waikato’s line, and set up Caleb Clarke for a try on the left flank with a glorious cut-out pass.
Four minutes later, they extended their advantage, when winger Siave Togoiu pulled out a left-footed chip and chase down the right flank around halfway, and sprinted past the Waikato defence to make it 24-12.
The game threatened to take a twist in the 48th minute, when Auckland openside Sione Talitui was shown a yellow card, after throwing a punch in a skirmish off the ball with his Waikato opposite, Jacob Norris.
But Waikato couldn’t get control of the ball for long enough to do anything with it, and after breathing a sigh of relief when Harry Plummer missed one penalty, they were put 15 points behind as he nailed another attempt a few minutes later.
Talitui - who was given the Sir DJ Graham award as player of the tournament - returned with 13 minutes to play, having seen his side extend their lead while he sat, but it was reduced soon after, when Jackson Morgan crashed over and made it 27-17.
Waikato still needed two more tries in the final 10 minutes after that, an equation which didn’t change even when Plummer added another penalty with four minutes to go, to push Auckland’s lead out to 13.
With such little time remaining, the gap proved too big to bridge, and so Waikato relinquished their title.
The two teams couldn’t be separated at halftime, with Auckland centre Tanielu Tele’a and Waikato first-five Liam CoombesFabling each nabbing a brace in the first spell.
Tele’a scored his two tries first, benefiting from the cultured kicking game of Faiane.
In the 11th minute, the Auckland first-five sent a delicate chip in behind the Waikato defence, for Tele’a to dive onto and score, then in the 20th, he did the same thing, but in midfield.
That kick was to the left flank, where Waikato fullback Josh Moorby made a mess of things as he tried to gather the ball in, and so Tele’a was able to grab it and run to the line.
Second-five Plummer slotted one of the two conversions, and down 12-0 to the favourites, Waikato could have easily crumbled then and there, but CoombesFabling had other ideas.
In the 28th minute, he made the most of some hard work by his front rowers, who had a couple of good carries up the middle of the field, eventually slicing through the Auckland defence from close range.
Then, right on halftime, Waikato had a scrum 5m out, on the right touchline, and after a short drive, it came to the first-five, who shrugged off one tackle then battled his way over the line, with Tom Jordan adding the extras to level it up.
They just couldn’t repeat their escape act a second time. The Wallabies have cracked their first win of the Rugby Championship, coming from behind to topple Argentina 45-20 in Canberra on Saturday.
Superstar fullback Israel Folau scored a try in each half to set up the much-needed victory.
The Australians headed into the match after two losses to the All Blacks and a draw last weekend with South Africa, but the win didn’t come easy against the gritty Pumas.
Also winless before the clash, Argentina got the better of the scrappy home side early to lead 13-10 at halftime after dominating territory and possession.
The Wallabies looked more poised after the break and hit the front in the 49th minute with prop Sekope Kepu rumbling across the line.
They never looked back from there with Folau, halfback Will Genia, his replacement Nick
Phipps and rookie hooker Jordan Uelese sharing the five-pointers.
After exchanging early penalty kicks, the Pumas took the lead in the 23rd minute halfback when Martin Landajo spun out of the ruck to dive over.
Folau’s first came after the Wallabies moved the ball quickly from one side of the field to another before Bernard Foley found his man on the fly.
Australia travel to South Africa to take on the Springboks in Bloemfontein in their next encounter in a fortnight.
Caleb Clarke scored a crucial try for Auckland early in the second half.
Israel Folau dives to score his second try during the Wallabies’ win.