Australian Schools: Hewat’s Aussies well-placed to end seven-year drought against New Zealand
By Matt Findlay; Photo: Getty Images via Rugby AU
It’s been a long time since the Australian Schools and U18 side have beaten their New Zealand counterparts and head coach Pete Hewat said even with limited preparation his side’s in good shape to end their monumental drought this week.
Come kick-off at St Paul’s Collegiate School on Friday afternoon it will be almost exactly seven years – two days shy, in fact – since the Aussies last won a trans-Tasman Test, that 16-14 win coming on October 6 of 2012.
A one-point defeat in 2013 is the closest they’ve come since, but after that the Aussies haven’t managed to get within 10 points of their traditional rivals.
With a strong, albeit limited, preparation under their belts this year and back-to-back wins in the lead-up to Friday’s epic, Hewat’s hopeful his side will “be on the right side of the ledger” this time around.
While many coaches would avoid the topic or dismiss it, Hewat admitted breaking that drought is absolutely motivation for his outfit.
“It’s been a long time, 2012 was the last time we beat New Zealand, but the boys are preparing to change that, change things. We’ve spoken about it, absolutely, because the guys want to change things and we want to keep winning,” Hewat said.
That’s easier said than done, particularly when they’ll need to do so on New Zealand soil at Hamilton although encouragingly the 2012 side did just that, their win came at Auckland Grammar School.
That 2012 Australian side was one that included the likes of Matt Sandell, Tom Robertson and Tom Staniforth and, most notably, Jack Dempsey and Reece Hodge, both of whom are in Japan for the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign.
Hewat’s troops have reason for confidence after a 32-point dismantling of Fiji in their tour-opener last week, which they backed up with a 30-17 victory over New Zealand Barbarians on Monday.
“[The win over Fiji] was a good start with very limited preparation … we only had a couple of sessions on the Monday and Tuesday before flying out on Wednesday before the game (on Friday),” Hewat said.
“I was pretty proud and pleased in the way the guys responded and took on all the information we gave them, we got what we needed out of that game … we [wanted] more of the same (against the Barbarians).
“We only had one session after that (Fiji) game to make sure we were on the same page and connecting as well as we could be.
“Having full games as practice is great, getting the guys under pressure in game situations is always helpful and while the outcome is important so is how we’re doing things.
“It’s a cliche, but this tour was always going to be one session at a time because we’re giving the guys a lot of information and we don’t want to overload them, but they’ve been great in terms of using what we’ve given them at training and in games.”
The Aussies flew out to 25-5 lead in the opening 60 minutes against the Barbarians before the Kiwis pegged that margin back to just eight, with a highlight reel-worthy try from winger Michael Manson among some enterprising play in the comeback.
Australia held their nerve though and capped off the win with NSW winger Tolatau Koula’s try, which came after five-pointers from Flanker Alex Masibaka, hooker Hamish Moore and halfback Kalani Thomas.
Five-eighth Anthony Alofipo had a pretty good day with the boot too, slotting two of his four conversion attempts and nailing two penalty goals as well.
Friday afternoon’s massive showdown with New Zealand Schoolboys kicks off at 1.05pm (AEST) at Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate School.
AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS AND U18 (squad): Lachlan Albert (St Ignatius’ College, Brumbies Academy), Anthony Alofipo (Erindale College, Brumbies Academy), George Blake (The Southport School, Reds Academy), Hugh Bokenham (St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill, Waratahs Academy), Daniel Botha (The Scots College, Waratahs Academy), Joe Brial (The Scots College, Waratahs Academy), John Connolly (The King’s School, NSW Waratahs), Joshua Flook (Brothers Rugby Club, Reds Academy), George Gibson (Brisbane Boys College, Reds Academy), Carter Gordon (Wests Rugby Club, Queensland Reds), Malachi Hawkes (Trinity College, Waratahs Academy), Thomas Hooper (Tuggeranong Vikings, Brumbies Academy), Tolutau Koula (Newington College, Waratahs Academy), Alexander Masibaka (Aranmore College, Rugby WA Academy), Hamish Moore (The Scots College, Waratahs Academy), Zane Nonggorr (The Southport School, Reds Academy), Reesjan Pasitoa (St Joseph’s College Nudgee, Brumbies Academy), Billy Pollard (Barker College, Waratahs Academy), William Roach (UQ Rugby Club, Reds Academy), Dion Samuela (The Southport School, Reds Academy), Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii (The King’s School, Waratahs Academy), Keynan Tauakipulu (St Peter’s College, Reds Academy), Kalani Thomas (Ipswich Grammar School, Reds Academy), Zephania Tuinona (Queanbeyan Whites, Brumbies Academy), Mosese Tuipulotu (St Kevin’s College, Rebels Academy), Glen Vaihu (St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace, Reds Academy), Harrison Vella (St Joseph’s College Nudgee, Reds Academy)