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‘We’ll improve’: Baby Blacks edge Junior Wallabies in thriller

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The New Zealand Under 20s have beaten arch rivals the Junior Wallabies in a one-point thriller at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Saturday.


Australia claimed bragging rights in the first of the two games between the talented young sides, with the Junior Wallabies winning 34-26 at NZCIS in Upper Hutt earlier this week.

But as the old adage goes, you’re only as good as your last performance.

The Baby Blacks were out for revenge, while the Junior Wallabies were looking to go “back-to-back” – with captain Teddy Wilson saying that’s what “great” sides do.

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Playing the curtain raiser to the highly anticipated New Zealand blockbuster between the Hurricanes and Crusaders at Sky Stadium, the Baby Blacks set the tone with a passionate haka.

After almost 15 minutes of the gladiatorial contest, Australia finally broke the deadlock with flyhalf Jack Bowen converting a long-range penalty attempt.

But New Zealand struck back a few minutes later as winger Caleb Tangitau scored a brilliant try – truly, it was no easy feat.

Fullback Harry Godfrey kicked the ball across the field for his winger, who managed to out-leap Australian sevens ace Darby Lancaster. But, impressively, Tangitau managed to somehow stay in play.


Following another Australian penalty goal, the hosts raced out to a commanding 14-6 lead after a try to the other winger Macca Springer.

The Baby Blacks went into the sheds up 19-6, and managed to withstand an onslaught of attacking pressure from Australia after the break.

The Junior Wallabies scored two tries, while New Zealand were kept scoreless.

But defence wins champions, and that rung true at Sky Stadium this weekend.

New Zealand did just enough to hang on for a hard-earned 19-18 win, but clearly, co-captain Peter Lakai wasn’t completely thrilled with the performance.


“First off, we really came out firing. I just think our energy and our set-piece in the second half really led us down,” Lakai said on Sky Sport.

“But we’ll go away, we’ll take the learnings and we’ll improve.


“They just got a real good lean on us (at the scrum). They got a good hit once we tried to hook the ball and we tried to adjust and they just kept coming.

“Full credit to them but we’ll work and that and we’ll come back better.

“We’ve been in camp for two weeks so just building those combos and getting used to everyone’s tendencies and I think we’re building well as a team.”

The Junior Wallabies shocked the rugby world with a victory earlier this week, and fell agonsingly short of another victory on Saturday.

Australia showed glimpses of brilliance at Sky Stadium as a collective from one to 15, but their forward pack was especially impressive – and deserves a lot of praise.

The future of Australian rugby appears to be in great hands.

As captain Teddy Wilson phrased it, the “piggies” laid the foundation for any success the team has had.

“The ‘piggies’ have definitely fronted up the last two games, they built the platform for us backs to play off,” Wilson said on Sky Sport.

“That’s a credit to them, they train really hard during the week and you can see the results on the field here. They’ve been scrummaging really well.

“Our set-piece is great and give us that front foot ball and we need to be better off the back of that so our back starters can definitely improve.


“We can look to have some strike plays off the back of our set-piece, that’s something we’re looking to do.”

With 21 days to go until the World Rugby Under 20 Championships in South Africa, both teams appear to be tracking nicely ahead of the highly prestigious event.

“Both games have been very physical so I’ve been very proud of the boys’ defence, they’ve fronted up both games,” Wilson added.

“We’re backing our defence so that is definitely take into the World Cup is our defence.”


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Jmann 408 days ago

I seem to recall a certain author predicting an Australian win....

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Nickers 40 minutes ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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Thomas 51 minutes ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

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