TO MARK this country hosting the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand’s Marist Rugby Academy returned to Bognor RFC as part of their European Tour to face the club’s under-13s in their season opener before they head to London Irish and Racing Metro junior sections.
Previous visits in the past three years have seen a fantastic display of ability from the visitors, a team who top their New Zealand League and whose team contained four international under-13 Tonga players.
The exhibition matches are inspirational for teams here to experience the skill set of these Southern Hemisphere players. It has really shown them what they can achieve if they dedicate themselves to their sport and work hard.
The Bognor team realise the visitors are of a similar age and it is hard work that has got them where they are.
Pre-match, Bognor faced the Kiwi tourists’ cultural Hakka (see a video at bognor.co.uk/sport). Having witnessed the event during World Cup games, the Bognor lads experienced first hand the emotion involved for both sides.
The match was fast and furious with great ball skills and pace that Bognor found difficult to deal with, and NZ were first over the line and converted to go 7-0 up. This was almost instantly repaid after the restart.
When we saw your big guys we decided an evasive game would be the best plan. Your guys dealt with it well and made life very difficult for us. If ever any of them fancy a place in our Academy they would be more than welcome.Kenny Manu
Great forward play by new lads Dylan Giles and Finlay Glass, both over 6ft tall, powering the ball up the middle with veteran Elvis Millen in support.
A great offload to scrum-half Ollie Page and a flight over the line and a conversion drew Bognor level.
The Kiwis scored another try but after the restart Bognor rallied themselves to a flurry of tries.
The first was by the experienced flanker Owen Thomas with a lightning-fast run down the wing after some great play by Harry Lindsey.
Then the two new giant second rows Giles and Glass scored two apiece, taking the ball straight through the Kiwis’ defence unanswered. All but one of the five tries were converted.
The Kiwis came alive and Bognor were beginning to tire and carrying one or two injuries. NZ began running in tries by taking the ball wide and fast. The game ended in a draw which seemed a very apt way for the glorious day to play out.
Coach Morgan Thomas said: “They played with great spirit and every member of the team performed at 100 per cent. Teamwork and discipline really paid off for them.”
In reply Kenny Manu, the NZ coach, said he wasn’t expecting Bognor to handle the pace of their game.
“When we saw your big guys we decided an evasive game would be the best plan. Your guys dealt with it well and made life very difficult for us. If ever any of them fancy a place in our Academy they would be more than welcome.”
The tunnel was formed as the teams clapped each other off the field and the visitors were treated to a Bognor RFC clubhouse welcome. Gifts and details exchanged ready for the rematch next season.
MoM as nominated by NZ coaches saw Ben Woolnough and birthday boy Ethan Teasdale receive a goody bag each from the visitors.
Bognor under-13s are planning a NZ tour as they finish their under-17s season. The NZ tour fundraising starts here.
Bognor under-13s train at 7pm on Wednesdays at Arun Leisure Centre and Sunday mornings at Bognor RFC, Hampshire Avenue. All new players are very welcome to come along and try it out for free. Contact Doug Millen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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