Rugby League: Academy honours earned by Kiwis

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The Independent Online
Great Britain Academy. . .22

Junior Kiwis. . . . . . . 30

TWO spirited fightbacks were not quite enough to close the gap on the best youth side in the world in a Wembley warm-up that was a delight to watch, writes Dave Hadfield.

Fears that the young New Zealanders would prove just too powerful for the best of emerging British talent seemed well-founded when the tourists led 10-0 early in the game and took control again at 24-8 with tries before and after half-time.

The quality of the riposte showed the progress that has been made since the birth of the Academy competition, even if it could not bring victory.

The Wigan forward, Andrew Farrell, and the Warrington full-back, Lee Penny, were key figures for Great Britain. Farrell, with the physical presence to match the Kiwis, contributed to tries by Jon Roper and Scott Martin in the first recovery.

Penny prevented a number of tries and scored one in the second half to aid the fightback to 24-22. His Warrington team-mate, Iestyn Harris, claimed a magnificent solo try, but was unlucky with a series of kicks that scraped the wrong side of the posts.

If a couple of those had gone over, Britain would have had a lead that they may have held. Instead, a formidable Kiwi team kept its nose ahead and its talented captain, Henry Paul, extended the margin with a converted try in the last minute. The British disappointment could not obscure the impression that the future is in good hands on both sides of the world.

GREAT BRITAIN ACADEMY: Penny; Roper (both Warrington), Martin (Leigh), Stevens (Wigan), Harris (Warrington); Holroyd (Leeds), McAtee (St Helens); Sykes (Castleford), Rowley (Leigh), Hilton (Warrington), Flynn (Wakefield Trinity), Schultz (Leeds), Farrell (Wigan, capt). Substitutes: Haughton (Wigan) for Hilton, 47; Wainwright (Warrington) for Schultz, 47; Lawless (Halifax) for Rowley, 61; Smith (Castelford) for Roper, 71.

JUNIOR KIWIS: Paul (Te Atatu, capt); Johnsen (Hokitika), Vaikona (Lincoln University), Malietoa-Brown (Papakura), Johnson (Takahiwai); Noovao (Otahuhu), Swann (Marist); Weepu (Wainuiomata), Beirne (Papanui), Fatialofa (Marist), Vagana (Richmond Rovers), Kelemete (Porirua), Henare (Otahuhu). Substitutes: Lima (Otahuhu) for Weepu, 60; Chan (Taupo Broncos) for Johnsen, 66; Faataape (Papanui) for Kelemete, 70; Manihera (Eastern Suburbs) for Swann, 73.

Referee: J-L Aribaud (France).