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Junior Wallabies stun Baby Blacks with away win in Wellington

By Ben Smith
Mason Gordon of Australia paduring the match between New Zealand U20 and the Junior Wallabies at NZCIS on May 29, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Junior Wallabies have stunned the ‘Baby Blacks’ with a 34-26 win in Wellington in the first of two warm-up fixture between the two sides as discipline let the home side down.

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A hat-trick to right wing Ronan Leahy powered the Australia U20s to victory, who led the entire way after scoring the first try despite New Zealand closing the gap on numerous occasions.

The visitors enjoyed a dominant set-piece over New Zealand, with the Aussie forward pack impressing at scrum time and at the breakdown.

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The home side was hit with injuries losing tighthead prop Maliu Niuafe inside the first few minutes while fullback Payton Spencer was forced from the field midway through the first half.

Australia withstood an early wave of attack before getting a chance of their own down the other end. After a rolling maul and plenty of narrow carries, they earned another penalty from which they decided to scrum. A powerful shunt earned a penalty try to give Australia a 7-0 advantage.

New Zealand hit back from their own chance inside the five, when blindside flanker Malachi Wrampling-Alec dived over from close range after the maul had been stopped.

Junior Wallaby captain Teddy Wilson then came up with a big play, breaking open New Zealand at the ruck after selling a big dummy before linking up with inside centre David Vaihu out wide for the finish.

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Down by 14-7, problems compounded for New Zealand when reserve prop Bradley Crichton was yellow carded for a high shot.

New Zealand Sevens rep and left wing Codemeru Vai had to be substituted in order to bring on another prop, Raymond Tuputupu.

Australia took advantage of Vai’s absence with a nice shape on the left edge that gave fullback Mason Gordon a three-on-one. The outside backs combined to put Leahy over for his first and take a 19-7 lead.

New Zealand was in need of a resurgence and a try right on half-time offered some hope for the home side, with reserve fullback Finn Hurley providing a cross-field kick for Isaac Hutchinson.

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However the 19-14 deficit quickly became 26-14 when Australia struck with a clever switch play from the scrum from five out.

After the No 8 broke to the openside, scrumhalf Wilson scampered back and threaded a grubber in behind for Leahy to latch onto for his second.

New Zealand hit back from their own scrum play, when a link pass from their right wing found left wing Cody Vai unmarked to reduce the gap to 26-21.

A number of opportunities couldn’t be capitalised on by New Zealand to take the lead, with Australia’s defence holding firm.

Giant reserve lock Leafi Talataina then burst through New Zealand’s defence on the third phase of a launch play, setting up play deep inside their 22.

Quick hands the same way on the next phase put Leahy over his hat-trick and gave Australia a commanding 31-21 lead.

Otago pair Finn Hurley and Ajay Faleafaga combined to strike back once again, with Hurley showing some pace and elusiveness to glide across two Australian defenders before crashing over.

A Mason Gordon penalty goal restored the lead to eight points at 34-26 which was enough to secure a rare victory on New Zealand soil.

The two sides meet again on Saturday afternoon at Sky Stadium as the curtain raiser for the Hurricanes vs Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific clash.

 

 

 

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