The Australian Affiliated States scored a try late on to snatch a 24-20 win over BARLA Lions in a thrilling Test match.
BARLA ace Jamie Fields opened the score in the fifth minute with a close-range bullocking effort on the right and added the goal to make it 6-0 but the Affiliated States replied with David Tabuai just grounding before the defence got to him.
At that stage the Lions led 6-4 and were playing in confident fashion. Their endeavour was rewarded when Sam Jones funneled back to collect a kick on his own twenty metre line. He then beat a defender and blazed down the left, expertly drawing the full-back before offloading to Jack Jones who ran to the posts. Fields once more converted and the score was 12-4 to the Lions.
Once more the Australian side responded. A mistake in their own twenty turned the ball over and after setting their position from the scrum, Affiliated States switched play to their left for big back-rower Losi Kereti to wrestle over after 21 minutes. Half-back James Aspden missed his second attempt on goal but the Affiliated States were right back in the contest at 12-8.
Five minutes later, the Australian side took the lead for the first time when dangerman Kereti, rid himself of a couple of defenders and got the ball down at the left corner for his second try.
Early in the second half, an error inside their own twenty from BARLA Lions gifted possession to the Affiliated States, and they didn’t hang around, moving the ball down the line from the scrum for winger Kody Simecki to go around his man and touch down in the corner. Aspden couldn’t convert but the Australians led 18-12.
With fifty minutes gone BARLA Lions forced an error and worked the ball close before the excellent Craig Savage was rewarded for persistence. Popping up on the blindside he dabbed forward, chased and collected the ricochet for a try Fields converted.
On the hour, the Lions received a penalty after Jack Jones was fouled in the art of kicking long. Fields stepped up to kick and BARLA led 20-18, emphasising the closeness of the game.
Seven minutes later, Aidy Gleeson got a harsh call on a ball steal and the Affiliated States advanced downfield before a high bomb was spilled by the usually unflappable Ian Jackson and Delane Edwards collected, danced inside a couple of defenders and ran under the posts. Aspden goaled to open a 20-24 advantage.
The Lions were on the end of a harsh offside call when Jack Jones and Andy Hullock combined and from that position, the Australian side advanced, eventually working an opening for Logan Barclay to score out wide. Aspden missed with the kick and there was one final flourish from BARLA when Jordan Gibson gathered a short restart and ran to the twenty, but time ran out on the tourists who now must defeat Fiji Bati Residents on Friday to stand a chance of winning the International Tri-Series.
BARLA Lions: Jackson, S Jones, Clark, Gibon, Hoban, J Jones, Hullock, Fields, Savage, Goulding, Rushworth, Hopkins, O’Brien. Subs: Gleeson, Lea, Tagg, Howdle, Henson, Sheridan, Gamble, Chalkley, Postlethwaite.
Australian Affiliated States: Edwards, Simecki, Teleni, Pomale, Stringer, Proudler, Aspden, Gibson, Jeffrey, Killan, Kereti, Crotty, Butler. Subs: Constantinov, Searle, Hall, Kaje, Goodfellow, Barclay, Tabuai.
Attendance: 150 (est).