THE fireworks came before and after last night as the Junior Kangaroos blitzed their New Zealand opponents, with Canberra’s Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton each posting try doubles.
The Australian under 20s tempted fate by advancing on the haka before kick-off, with players ending up nose-to-nose and jostling before team-mates separated them. Advancing on the haka is considered disrespectful but the Kiwis failed to gain any lasting motivation out of it.
The Junior Kiwis scored first through Warriors star Carlos Tuimavave but after that it was all green-and-gold, with Kelly Egan’s side leading 30-8 at halftime.
The avalanche of points continued in the second session but the final try touchdown – by Australia centre Tautau Moga – was followed by a renewal of hostilities.
NZ second rower Jason Taumalolo and Australia’s Kane Evans were involved in a shoving match that quickly escalated, with Taumalolo throwing the first punch and Evans returning service before players rushed in. Referee Gavin Reynolds quickly restored order and the other Australian prop, David Klemmer, failed in half-hearted conversion attempt to finalise the score.
It was a dramatic fall from grace for the Junior Kiwis, who won the corresponding game last year at Hunter Stadium.
Aside from a bit of biff, the game was also sandwiched by touchdowns from Lee, the cousin of NBA basketballer Patrick Mills.
He scored in the 12th minute off clubmate Wighton’s pass and again in the 60th with victory assured. While halfback Jacob Miller was able to kick his first six conversions, New Zealand’s Ngataua Manumalealii was unable to add the extras to any one of his side’s four tries.
Wighton’s tries came in the 37th and 54th minutes, both from close range.
Lachlan Maranta was a late withdrawal from the Junior Kangaroos line-up with a hamstring injury.
JUNIOR KANGAROOS 48 (E Lee 2 J Wighton 2 J Stockwell D Klemmer C Blair T Moga M Fonua tries J Miller 6 goals) bt JUNIOR KIWIS 16 (N Hukatai 2 C Tuimavave D Fusita tries) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: G Reynolds.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD