April 6 2001
New Zealand Under 19s win in a canter.
“IT WAS A BEST, BUT THEY MUST GET BETTER!
By MATT MCILRAITH AT THE FIRA-IRB JUNIOR WORLD CUP IN SANTIAGO, CHILE
It would not have been unreasonable to have expected coach Dennis Brown to have been fairly satisfied after his side’s opening hit out at the FIRA-IRB WorId Junior Championships last week.
New Zealand did after all swamp Romania 85-12 in the sweltering heat at Santiago’s exclusive Prince of Wales Country Club, which is situated in the impressive shadow of the Andes Mountains. Brown, however, was keeping his feet firmly planted despite the score being a record high for New Zealand at the tournament, eclipsing last year’s 82-0 win over Spain.
“We weren’t anywhere near the mark we need to achieve,” Brown declared shortly after the day one romp.
“The score might look flash, but the Romanians were very disappointing. They barely put any pressure on us at all, which made the game little more than an extended training run. We’ll have to make significant improvements for the rest of the tournament if we are to achieve our goal.”
Pleasingly, however, the New Zealanders were ruthless in the way they exposed their rival’s deficiencies. Most of the victor’s 13 tries were a result of solid team work, and they kept the foot on the throttle throughout the second half on a 30 degree day, running in six second half tries, to add to the seven from the first. New Zealand could easily have lost their way after romping out to a 45-9 halftime advantage.
As emphatic as New Zealand’s opening round success was, it didn’t come without a cost. Dashing young Auckland fullback Ben Atiga, who was heavily involved in the early stages of the Romanian slaughter, later damaged knee cartilage which could rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.
As well as his pace from the back, Atiga’s absence has also cost New Zealand their first choice goalkicker, and after being controversially eliminated last year in a goalkicking shoot out following their drawn semi-final with Australia, the New Zealanders are only too aware how decisive kicking can be.
Atiga’s injury aside, there was much to like about New Zealand’s opening day performance, even if the Romanians were quite clearly fighting out of their division. The New Zealand threequarter line had the alarm bells ringing in the opposing camp just about every time they got the ball, while 17-year-old first-five Luke McAllister looks a player of genuine class.
The son of former Taranaki winger Charlie McAllister, the North Harbour product dotted down three times in the first 40 minutes against Romania, before being substituted by Auckland’s Murray Williams.
The New Zealand forwards, while lacking the size of many of the other teams at this tournament, also comfortably passed their first test.”
From “Rugby News”, Issue 7 2001 p. 10.