Canterbury products Jordan Riki and Sui Pauaraisa made excellent international debuts for the Junior Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns respectively, but both endured defeat in thrilling clashes against their Australian counterparts. 

Australia has edged out New Zealand in a 26-24 women’s Test thriller at Mount Smart Stadium.

The Kiwi Ferns fought back from an early 12-point deficit and took the lead twice – as well as drawing level once – during an epic second-half rollercoaster. But Isabelle Kelly’s second try five minutes from fulltime proved the difference as the world champion Jillaroos snuck home.

Jillaroos playmaker and captain Ali Brigginshaw tore the Ferns apart in the opening 12 minutes, laying on on a try for wing debutant Julia Robinson before producing a brilliant solo effort for a 12-0 scoreline.

But the hosts stemmed the tide and landed a crucial blow through right winger Langi Veainu, who crossed from a magnificent long ball from five-eighth Racene McGregor.

The KIwi Ferns dominated the opening stages of the second half to surge into the lead.

Annetta Nuuausala powered over in the 45th minute and in the ensuing set from the restart McGregor kicked for fullback Apii Nicholls, who found Veainu for her second.

But the game continued to seesaw. Jillaroos newcomer Tamzin Gray put the visitors back in front in the 51st minute, before Ferns centre powerhouse Maitua Feterika levelled the scores four minutes later with a barnstorming 20-metre try.

Australia withstood several waves of New Zealand attack to score a critical try with 16 minutes left, gun Roosters centre Isabelle Kelly breaking through a couple of soft tackles from dummy-half and streaking 80 metres.

The Jillaroos were made to pay for a couple of errors, however, and fell 24-22 behind as Ferns interchange Amber Kani charged over under the posts courtesy of some neat footwork.

Kelly struck again in the 75th minute, capitalising on an overlap to score in the corner and give the Jillaroos a 26-24 lead to hang onto until fulltime.

The Junior Kangaroos defeated the Junior Kiwis 40-24 in an entertaining opening to the trans-Tasman triple-header at Mount Smart Stadium.

The New Zealanders took a 12-6 lead after Warriors reserve grade half Chanel Harris-Tavita’s freakish kick produced a try for club-mate Isaiah Papali’i.

But the visitors headed into halftime 24-16 in front and went on with the job in the second stanza.

Storm second-rower Tino Faasuamaleaui and Cowboys winger Enari Tuala completed try-doubles in the latter stages after Warriors tyro Joseph Vuna – who is soon to leave the game for two years on Mormon mission – had given the Junior Kiwis a sniff.

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