IRB Pacific Nations CUP
A clinical performance from the Junior All Blacks resulted not only in seven unanswered tries and a 50-0 defeat of Australia A, but also the successful defence of their IRB Pacific Nations Cup title in Dunedin on Saturday.
Both sides had come into the match with unbeaten records, the Junior All Blacks sitting atop the standings by virtue of three bonus point victories to Australia A's two in the previous three rounds, so many had predicted an exciting and close encounter.
The reality was that the Junior All Blacks were simply too strong for a side that had welcomed six Wallabies into the fold since last weekend's 71-10 rout of Japan, wrapping up the bonus point that confirmed them as champions within the half hour mark.
There was, unusually, no Haka performed on the pitch before the match, but the Junior All Blacks quickly made their intentions clear in a scrappy opening by both sides, fly half Stephen Donald's penalty in the third minute opening the scoring.
Turning defence into attack
Australia A fullback Peter Hewat missed a penalty attempt three minutes later, and the visitors rarely threatened the Junior All Blacks line after that, kicking away possession or simply unable to break through a resolute defence determined to protect their line.
Even when Australia A did get within metres of the line after 11 minutes after a break by number 8 David Lyons, it ended in a breakaway try for the Junior All Blacks, prop John Afoa picking up at the breakdown to feed Donald for an 80 metre run in.
Afoa came close to scoring himself minutes later, only to see scrum half Josh Holmes wrestle the ball away, but the Junior All Blacks did claim a second try after a break from the lively Andrew Ellis, the ball making its way out to lock Tom Donnelly on the overlap.
The third try came in the 23rd minute after an error from Hewat, the fullback electing to run the ball out from in goal with no support and faced by charging home players. The ball came out, gifting number 8 Sione Lauaki an easy pick up to touch down.
Unassailable lead in standings
Things got worse for Australia minutes later with prop Nic Henderson sin-binned for a punch to the body, and when they failed to find touch with a kick on the half hour, the Junior All Blacks went through the phases for Scott Hamilton to score.
The Junior All Blacks had scored a point per minute with a 31-0 lead that effectively put the result beyond doubt and secured the bonus point that, with victory, would give them an unassailable six point lead over Australia A with only one round remaining.
However, the home side were not about to rest on their laurels, wing Anthony Tuitavake adjudged to have knocked on before grounding the ball one minute, only to get the try after another kick by Sam Norton-Knight failed to find touch on halfway.
Donald's conversion, maintaining his perfect record with the boot, was the last kick of the first half, sending the Junior All Blacks in leading 38-0 at the interval against an Australia A side who had enjoyed very little of the ball to that point.
No way through for Australia A
Australia A did begin to enjoy more possession in the third quarter of the match with wing Digby Ioane, one of the players involved in the Wallabies' recent Tests with Wales and Fiji, making some good breaks only for the defence to hold firm.
Remarkably, given the point per minute ratio in the first half, some 18 minutes had passed before the first score after the break, Sam Tuitupou combining well with his fellow centre Ma'a Nonu for the latter to race 20 metres through a gap to touch down.
Donald missed his first kick at goal in a commanding performance with he and halfback partner Ellis driving the Junior All Blacks forward, but within minutes a seventh try followed with replacement Daniel Braid going under the posts from Lauaki's pick up.
This time Donald slotted the conversion to bring up the half century and, although there was still 19 minutes to go, there would be no further scores as both sides rang the changes in a match which saw Donnelly sin-binned two minutes from time.
The Pacific Nations Cup champions now head to Tokyo to face Japan, coached by former All Black World Cup winner John Kirwan, next weekend, while Australia A must regroup before their final match against Fiji in Suva.
JUNIOR ALL BLACKS: 1. Clarke Dermody 2. Derren Witcombe 3. John Afoa 4. Hoani MacDonald 5. Tom Donnelly 6. Jerome Kaino 7. Marty Holah (Captain) 8. Sione Lauaki 9. Andrew Ellis 10. Stephen Donald 11. Anthony Tuitavake 12. Sam Tuitupou 13. Ma'a Nonu 14. Scott Hamilton 15. Cory Jane.
Replacements: 16. Corey Flynn 17. Campbell Johnstone 18. Mose Tuiali'i 19. Daniel Braid 20. Jimmy Cowan 21. Stephen Brett 22. Tane Tu'ipulotu.
Tries: Stephen Donald, Tom Donnelly, Sione Lauaki, Anthony Tuitavake, Scott Hamilton, Ma'a Nonu, Daniel Braid.
Conversions: Stephen Donald (6)
Penalties: Stephen Donald
Yellow card: Tom Donnelly
AUSTRALIA A: 1. Nic Henderson 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 3. Rodney Blake 4. Alister Campbell (Captain) 5. James Horwill 6. Hugh McMeniman 7. Julian Salvi 8. David Lyons 9. Josh Holmes 10. Sam Norton-Knight 11. Digby Ioane 12. Ryan Cross 13. Junior Pelesasa 14. Cameron Shepherd 15. Peter Hewat.
Replacements: 16. Sean Hardman 17. Troy Takiari 18. Dean Mumm 19. Jone Tawake 20. Josh Valentine 21. Gene Fairbanks 22. Lachlan Turner.
Yellow card: Nic Henderson.