The South Pacific Nations have triumphed over the New Zealand Hawks in a hard fought, intense contest.
In a match characterised by fierce competition for the ball in the midfield, it was the South Pacific Nations who managed to get cleaner ball.
Close pressure on defence also contributed to the win. The Hawks were often unable to escape the tight South Pacific marking.
It was the Hawks who scored first, with Sam McKenzie converting a free kick with precision. Shane Leat then answered for the South Pacific, tying the game up again.
With only a few minutes remaining in the quarter, Andy Christensen kicked a long goal to give the Hawks breathing room. 3.2:20 – 2.2:14 was the score at the first break.
The 2nd quarter followed a similar pattern, with neither side managing to pull away. However, young guns Joe Baker-Thomas and Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas kicked goals to bring the scores within one point at half time.
For the Hawks, Michael Gregson was a constant presence in the midfield, running hard and marking cleanly. His efforts were matched by those of Ben Miller and Andrew Howison for the South Pacific, who aggressively won possession and moved it forward.
After the half time break the South Pacific began to make the most of their relative youth, running the Hawks off the park. Goals to Kyle Smith and Ha’ele Finau, along with a steady stream of behinds, gave them a 6.7:43 – 5.6:36 lead at the break.
With one quarter to play, both teams were still in the match. However, the composure of the South Pacific shone through, with Brendan Clark kicking a crucial goal to extend the lead.
It proved to be decisive, with the floodgates opening. Further goals to Cam Bailey and Ben Miller put the match beyond doubt. The final score was 9.9:63 – 5.8:38.
The win was the first time the South Pacific have beaten the New Zealand Hawks, on their third attempt. It was a testament to the hunger of the young players in the team, who showed they were ready to play at a high level.
The series now moves to Hutt Park on Sunday. Game 2 between the New Zealand Hawks and the South Pacific Nations will begin at 10.30am, alongside an AFL New Zealand Have a Go Day. Spectators are encouraged to come and see the best local AFL players in action.
Scores and Goals:
New Zealand Hawks 5.8:38 (McKenzie 2, Mundell, Christensen, Rattenbury)
South Pacific Nations 9.9:63 (Leat, Bua, Baker-Thomas, Tipene-Thomas, Smith, Finau, Clark, Bailey, Miller)