A 5 try burst 10 minutes either side of halftime by the Blues under 20 team was enough to see off a plucky Northland Future Taniwha team 38-17 played at Onewa Domain in Takapuna on Saturday.
The Blues Under 20s had a point to prove after being held to a 24 all draw by the Taniwha in the previous fixture, but it was the visitors who would score in the first 2 minutes after an impressive lineout drive and maul. Mason Hohaia picking up the try and Johnny Cooper adding the extras.
Unlike a week ago when the Taniwha dominated at set piece scrum and with possession, it would be the Blues that would dominate possession for much of the 1st half. The Taniwha showing some incredible resilience on defence especially Manny Snooks despite taking a stinger on the shoulder early in the game featuring.
Isi Manu who started at number 8 for the unavailable Sam McNamara was once again a handful in both attack and defence for the Taniwha.
The set piece scrum was solid, but the issue for the Taniwha was most of the game was being played in their own half and the other issue being the quick ball being supplied to the Blues outside backs was creating problems for the defence.
The pressure and possession finally told in the 20th Minute, with the Blues crossing from close range and then adding another 2 tries 10 minutes before halftime.
The Taniwha went into the break 7-21 down with the very real prospect of the hosts posting a large score line. That danger became even more apparent when the Blues introduced 4 Blues squad members in the 2nd half, Taine Plumtree, Emoni Narawa,Jacob Ratumaitavuki Neepkins and Tanielu Tele’a. It would be 3 of this group of players who would feature in the next 3 tries all scored in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half…
Plumtree throwing a superb offload for one of the wingers to score. Then he was the recipient of an offload himself and finally Neepkins scoring off a Narawa break after a Northland turnover.
At 7-38 down and 30 minutes still left on the clock, it took a few reassuring words from Taniwha head coach George Konia to his charges to sting them into action. The words had the desires effect with a slight change of tactics using their ball runners to punch holes closer to the rucks.
With Elsie Fono and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa starting to monster their opposites at scrum time setting a much needed attacking platform giving both Jayden Kemp and Brody Tamarua at 9 and 10 an opportunity to showcase their skills.
Kemp looks a really good prospect for the future and Tamarua who plays for Te Rarawa and has come from rugby league has a very good skill set.
Rob Rush who plays with plenty of physicality crashed over after some good work and Felix Rayasi after some excellent ball movement out to the flank touched down for the Taniwha’s 3rd try
For the Futures Taniwha, full credit to Kaliopasi Uluilakepa who played out the entire 80 minutes, Isi Manu on the back of these 2 games has sent a clear message to the Northland coaches that he is the right condition to go to the next level.
Terepai King who has put on 10kgs since last year has also impressed over the last 2 weeks with his lineout work and his effort around the paddock complimenting what will be his locking team mate at Mid Northern Allan Craig for this upcoming 2021 club season.
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa has been really impressive in these 2 fixtures, with both his scrummaging and work around the paddock, incredible ball skills for a big man. He could develop very nicely into a Charle Famauina type player.
Had a good chat to Pasi, great kid with an even better attitude.
Leka Tuangafasi I suspect will also be right in contention for a mitre 10 cup contract along with Isi Manu who was an absolute beast at number 8, finally Northland may have a number 8 that’s gives them gainline.
Was also really impressed with Terepai King, has stuck on 10 kgs and if he can keep developing is probably an outside chance for a Mitre 10 contract.
Not the result the team wanted, but it has been great seeing the next group of young Taniwha players pitting themselves against quality opposition over these last 2 weeks and it would not surprise me if several don’t force their way in the 2021 Northland Mitre 10 Cup squad if they can maintain and improve during the season.
Northland Future Taniwha 17 (3 x tries Hohaia, Rush, Rayasi, con:Cooper)
Blues u20s 38 (6 x tries, 4 x con)
H/T 7-21 Blues 20s