Mixed bag, but a great series win to Australia

April 30, 2016 @ 9:30 UTC

The Australian Mixed team claim game two and the series over a gallant New Zealand.

In a dramatic game two clash between the Australasian mixed open foes, it was the Australians who held their nerve claiming the 2016 Trans-Tasman series at Trusts Arena in Auckland. The Kiwis were gallant in defeat and like the Aussies were blooding a number of rookies and must be scratching their heads on how to get through for a win particularly as they came to within a whisker. 

Australia were strong and tough as they usually are in international competition; but perhaps unconvincing winners in some respects as it was New Zealand who had the early run of play and could nearly have won it at the death.

For Australia there were a bunch of standouts though with Benbow, Lang, Michaelopolous and Captain Nicholls all leading the charge in attack and defence and Zara Nicholas scoring a brace. However, it was the maestro, Thompson, who stood up and delivered when it mattered most.  

“We’re very happy with the win and such an awesome defensive effort - they all just kept turning up,” World Cup and now 2016 Trans-Tasman winning coach, Mick Lovett.

“They played some big minutes out there: Benbow and the girl links including Patti (Michaelopolous) and the rookies were all outstanding and did a great job for us.

“To come away with the win with a new team, coaches and eight rookies; and with not as much footy as we would have like to have had, was great.”

For Assistant Coach, Dave Nolan, who steps up from coaching in the Australian Youth contingent program, it was especially pleasing.

“Like Mick said, we had some big moments repeatedly in defence,” he said.

“But not at one moment did we think we would lose the match and if we held the ball we had the belief to get through.

The game was a real cat and mouse affair early on. Jayden Benbow made a great save at the four minute mark and New Zealand were surging with a number of forays at the Australian line.

Australian then started to make inroads but in fairness it was end-to-end sets from both teams that set the tone for the match until New Zealand speedster, Mackenzie Haugh broke the line, skirting two Australian girl defenders in his wake on a 40 metre circuit and then down the touchline enroute to the tryline.

A series of unforced and fair to say, uncharacteristic errors from Australia gave New Zealand the early ascendancy leading up to the halfway point of the first half.

However, Michaelopolous almost crossed through a Toner overhead pass only to be denied. New Zealand hit right back again courtesy of repeat penalties from Australian mistakes and peppering the Australian line but to their credit the Aussies held tight and for some reward to come.

A great double phase play on the Kiwis’ featured Dylan Thompson twice before shooting a bullet pass wide to an outstretched, Zara Nicholas going over for her first.

Michaelopolous followed up the very next set scoring a great try from an inside ball from Captain Nicholls; ably rewarded for her near miss and excellent back up work earlier.

Then at the stroke of half-time Nicole Drummond crossed out wide for the Kiwis to draw the scores level 2-all at half-time.

Straight after the break, Springfield almost cut through from half in the first set but the New Zealand defence was again resolute.

The late sweeps from Thompson and Touma were straining the New Zealand line without any return though.

Repeat penalties to the Kiwis almost saw them cross and could well have been the turning point, albeit with 15 minutes remaining.

Then a bungled sub box handed the Aussies the ball in great field position, but again it was a scrappy result at the business end. Ashworth from New Zealand crossed out wide with Australia’s Thompson diving low to score immediately after bringing it to 3-apiece.

But another fumble from New Zealand denied them a chance to move ahead again and with twelve to go the game and the series was right in the balance.  

Dylan Thompson almost got Springfield on the scoreboard but ran out of room but then Nicholas delivered the very next set again for her double, from that man again: Thompson.

With five minutes to go you got the sense the next to score might well win the match.

The sun came out and then seemingly New Zealand’s attack as they drove hard at the Aussie line but just lacked the finesse to finish. Repeat penalties brought the Australians up-field and seemingly going in for the kill.

Nicholls led the defence and looked assured kept the defence line tight. One final opportunity presented for the Kiwis in the last minute of the match, but it was, fittingly, Michaelopolous who saved the day closing down the final play of the match with the New Zealand shooting through from half.

Lovett was diplomatic and gave credit to the courageous Kiwis who he said they were in great shape and in a good place.

“Full credit to New Zealand; they’ve got the right approach and are preparing well for the World Cup with experienced coaches,” he said.

“Our battles will be quite tight in years to come, I’ve got no doubt and we wish them well and thank them for a great series.”

FINAL SCORE: Australia 4 New Zealand 3

Scorers – Australia: Nicholas 2, Michaelopolous, Thompson.

New Zealand: Haugh, Drummond, Ashworth

Referees - Kim Skelley, Brett Freshwater, Bernie Schraeder (NZ)

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