The 2020 Youth Trans Tasman Test series against long-standing rivals, Australia, was a highly anticipated one, after the Kiwis fell at the final hurdle at the Youth World Cup (YWC) in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Twenty-one of the YWC players were a part of the contingent that travelled to Newcastle to try and turn the tide of the green and gold, including the experience of Touch Blacks capped players Norman-Bell, Sycamore, O’Neill and Moore. Of the 96 players in the contingent, the NZ teams boasted a total of 75 players who would pull on the black jersey for the first time.
With temperatures peaking in the 30s, the teams would have their work cut out for them over the three day, best-of-three match series.
NZ 18 Mixed
The NZ 18 Mixed team tapped the series off with an exceptional 6-5 victory, through clever manipulation of the opposition defensive line, allowing both McLean-Wanoa and Murrell to dot over with a double each. Day 2 saw the Aussie’s come out firing with a convincing win to send the 18 Mixed grade to a decider. The final game was a tightly contested foot race with The Emus getting the result at the end.
NZ 18 Girls
The NZ 18 Girls had a tough first game with the team unable to capitalize on their try scoring opportunities, and Australia dominating with a 9-2 win. Test 2 saw the Kiwis make a number of tactical and defensive policy changes, resulting in a closer contested match and a significant comeback. Heat and fatigue continued to test them with the Emus just being too strong overall.
NZ 18 Boys
While the first match saw NZ up at half time, they were unable to prevent Australia – who put in 3 successive tries – from claiming the victory. The strong connection between Waikato middles Hotham and Kemara was evident with their classy performance throughout the weekend. While the NZ 18 Boys continued to grind, the Emus overall speed, skills and attacking prowess took them to a series win in this grade.
NZ 20 Mixed
One of the closest games of Day 1 saw Tuakana-Hudson, Whalen and Murrell cross the white line with two touchdowns a piece. Unfortunately for the 20 Mixed, this wasn’t enough to keep them ahead with Australia pipping them 8-7. The team were relentless and slogged away, making Australia work for their second and third victories.
NZ 20 Girls
The NZ 20 Women’s tapped their first game off strong with a hat-trick from the talented Moore, before going down 9-7 at full time. With a nil-all score at half time of the second game, the Emus were quick to strike, scoring every minute at the start of the half to get a 7-0 victory. With Putt recognized for her impressive defensive performance, the team were unable to get a win up over the Aussies, going down 3 games to 0.
NZ 20 Boys
With the team coached by current Touch Blacks Open Men’s Captains, Graham and Cavanagh, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the team heading into game one of the series. Unfortunately, they weren’t unable to fully execute their game plan, going down to Australia 7-4. The boys headed into Game 2 with a focus on building on their performance of Day 1 and being more competitive in the ruck area and on the attack line. This paid off, stumping Australia 6-3 through a double by Barnett. The deciding match came down to the wire, but the Emus were just too clinical coming away with the series win.
The NZ referees were also tested by the conditions of Newcastle, with both Wall and Kimpton having to sit out of their games due to heatstroke. Hawke, put on an exceptional performance throughout the series, being appointed to the NZ 20 Women’s grade. While our referee contingent boasted two black badges and seven red badges, the opportunity and experience gained by our NZ referees puts us in good stride for the 2023 World Cup.
OVERALL SERIES RESULTS:
18 Mixed: NZ (6) – Aus (5)
18 Girls: NZ (2) – Aus (9)
18 Boys: NZ (7) – Aus (11)
20 Mixed: NZ (7) – Aus (8)
20 Girls: NZ (7) – Aus (9)
20 Boys: NZ (4) – Aus (7)
18 Mixed: NZ (5) – Aus (10)
18 Girls: NZ (4) – Aus (5)
18 Boys: NZ (3) – Aus (9)
20 Mixed – NZ (5) – Aus (7)
20 Girls: NZ (0) – Aus (7)
20 Boys: NZ (6) – Aus (3)
18 Mixed: NZ (6) – Aus (8)
18 Girls: NZ (3) – Aus (11)
18 Boys: NZ (3) – Aus (8)
20 Mixed: NZ (3) – Aus (7)
20 Girls: NZ (4) – Aus (12)
20 Boys: NZ (4) – Aus (5)
18 Mixed: Johnny Broughton (NZ) / Moana Winiana (NZ) / Michael Buttery (NZ)
18 Girls: Lachlan Freshwater / Ben Mathews (NZ) / Caitlin Kimpton (NZ)
18 Boys: Caleb Downes (NZ) / Sam Taylor (NZ) / Rob McKay
20 Mixed: Luke Saldern / Harley Wall (NZ) / Campbell Muir
20 Women’s: Annabelle Connolly / Courtney Hawke (NZ) / Alison Watters
20 Men’s: Brad Smith / Luke McKenzie / Anthony Smith
By Tamara Keefe, TouchNZ