The Wellington U18s and Tonga Schools teams come together for a group photo after their match at Jerry Collin Stadium.

Wellington Under 18 lose narrowly to Tongan Schools

Tonga Schools have beaten the Wellington Under 18s 26-24 in a thrilling match at Jerry Collin Stadium in Porirua.

The Wellington Under 18s showed plenty of character to come back from a 26-12 deficit to nearly steal the match in the final minute when a disallowed try ended a fantastic display of rugby from both sides.

Tonga shot out to a 19-5 after half an hour with tries to tighthead prop Heimuli Taufa, first five Sione Etoni and openside Hiliau Latu.

Wellington U18s had just one try in the opening stanza, to centre Tai Neli who stepped through the Tongan defence to race 50 metres to the try line.

Wellington closed the gap before halftime with a try to another Scots College back in Malo Manuao, who converted his own try to make it 19-12 at the break.

Tonga struck first after the resumption with blindside Nawruz Kanongata putting his side out to a commanding 26-12 lead before the Wellington fight back.

Wellington's reserve lead the resurgence with halfback Kyle Preston (Tawa College), first-five Matiu Samuel (Rongotai College) and loose forward Junior Uluese (Scots College) making their presence felt.

A second try to Neli, and one to Preston set up a thrilling finish, but, despite crossing Tonga's try line twice, Wellington could not get the ball down for the winning try.

Tonga Schools will be back on Jerry Collin Stadium again on Friday when they play New Zealand Maori Schools.


Wellington U18s 24 (Tai Neli 2, Malo Manuao, Kyle Preston tries, Manuao con, Tom Maiava con) Tonga Schools 26 (Heimuli Taufa, Sione Etoni, Hiliau Latu, Nawruz Kanongata tries, Etonis 3 con). HT: 19-12 (Tonga)

The Wellington Under 18s squad for the match was:

1, Moala Katoa (Scots College)
2, Manaaki Tiatia-Boyle (Scots College)
3, Stanley Paese (St Pats Silverstream College)
4, Tama Kapene (Scots College)
5, Mellennium Leota (Wellington College)
6, AJ Hart (St Pats Town College)
7, Alex Faifailoa (Wainuiomata High School)
8, Mitchell Stringer (Hutt Valley High School)
9, Misi Faimalo (St Pats Town College)
10, Malo Manuao (Scots College)
11, Caleb Cavubati (Scots College)
12, Connor Fitzsimmons (Wellington College)
13, Tai Neli (Scots College)
14, Tominiko Maiava (Wellington College)
15, Jack Gray (Scots College)
16, Gabe Meredith (St Pats Town College)
17, Denzel Leota (Welllington College)
18, DJ Taoipu (Rongotai College)
19, Junior Uluese (Scots College)
20, Matiu Samuel (Rongotai College)
21, Kyle Preston (Tawa College)
22, Jason Tuitama (Rongotai College)  

Selected in the squad but not in the matchday 22 were; Darius Patau (Bishop Viard), Werdna Maligi (Scots College), Josh Oloapu-Atoni (St Pats Town), Kaitu Ioane (Tawa College), Eli Moata'a (Porirua College)