29 Apr 2016 @ 8:30 UTC
Australia draws first blood in the Trans-Tasman Mixed Open series
In cool conditions at Trusts Arena in Auckland it was the Australian Mixed Open team that signalled the Australian’s intent for this year’s Trans-Tasman series following their emphatic World Cup victory in 2015.
New Zealand though to their credit were very strong and brave in defeat: victory clutched away from them in the dying seconds of the match.
The match was significant for Elin Mortimer the day after celebrating her birthday notching a hat-trick along with Leah Opie-Lukins enjoying a memorable Trans-Tasman debut with three tries to her name as well.
“It was a real arm wrestle to be honest,” Australia’s Assistant Coach, Justin Creighton said post-match.
“We came out expecting it be a grind and it was even more-so than we thought. A couple of big moments we needed to win and we didn’t – and that put us under pressure.
“We were very happy in the box and felt that if we go through it with our composure and if we keep calm and stick to our processes we would get there in the end.
“NZ played a very clever and smart style of game and exploited a few areas we didn’t even know we had so we will work on these. Katherine Stevens in defence and James Blackwood were really strong too as well, but all the guys did great and particularly those on debut tonight.”
Dean Springfield opened Australia’s account very early in the opening stanza and set the tone for the Australians scoring within the first minute following a nice sweep play.
Elin Mortimer on the left flank danced with the sideline and was the next to score but a quick reply by Danyon Morgan-Puterangi within the next set brought New Zealand right back into the match.
Opie-Lukins crossed-out wide at the 7th minute for Australia with Morgan-Puterangi going over for his double early in the match.
Mortimer crossed for an early brace at the 15th minute mark, the recipient of another good long ball out wide.
The Kiwis’ Mark Hodson scored following great lead-up work again by their number six, Mackenzie Haugh bringing the score to 4-3 and then Sammi Stanton on the cusp of half-time brought the score level to go into the break with the scores all locked-up.
Te Tuhi Muir-Tuuta opened the scoring for New Zealand in the first half and Leah Opie-Lukins crossed again out wide on the stroke of half-time taking both teams to the sheds with five in the bank.
Within thirty seconds though the Kiwis moved in front for the second time in the match only to see Trent Touma squeezing his first try in near the right corner post to lock the score up again 6-6.
New Zealand captain Wiremu Takerei crossed then Katherine Stevens from Australia following some great phase play by Springfield and Lang. Zara Nicholas followed up soon-after with a great try as well.
Then a late sweep to the right corner brought Dylan Thompson delivered Opie-Lukins her hat trick on debut.
New Zealand wasn’t going away though with Rauwhero scoring wide-out from a brilliant 25m left to right pass just one in arrears.
Te Tuhi Muir-Tuuta scored his double with a minute left to lock-up with scores again.
Elin Mortimer scored her hat-trick within the last 30 seconds avoiding the dreaded drop-off and putting the exclamation mark on a very exciting match.
Australia can now breathe a sigh of relief and look to wrap up their series in Game Two tomorrow.
FINAL SCORE: Australia 10 New Zealand 9
Scorers – Australia: Mortimer 3, Opie-Lukins 3, Springfield, Touma, Nicholas, Stevens.
New Zealand: Muir-Tuuta 2, Morgan-Puterangi 2, Takerei, Stanton, Hodson, Robinson-Bartlett, Rauwhero.