BREAK THROUGH: Jonah Placid makes one of his trademark line breaks during the 2014 junior World Cup against France at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand.
BREAK THROUGH: Jonah Placid makes one of his trademark line breaks during the 2014 junior World Cup against France at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Anthony Au-Yeung

Rocky rugby union stars reunite after four years for game

ROCKHAMPTON rugby union stars Jonah Placid, who plays for the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby and Duncan Paia'aua, Queensland Reds reunited in a representative rugby backline for the first time in close to four years yesterday.

Paia'aua came on at five- eighth in the second half to join Placid at fullback in the Australian under 20s, 34-22 victory over Samoa at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Parma, Italy. But it was Placid who was star of the show, scoring two tries to guide the young Australians to a comfortable victory and ensure they open their junior World Cup account with a win.

Speaking exclusively to The Morning Bulletin, Placid said he was delighted with Australia's win, which sets them up well for the remainder of their pool matches.

"Yeah, I'm just really happy that we got that first win," Placid said.

"It's always important at this tournament to start well. It sets us up. Things gets difficult if you lose the first game. It lets the lads get that winning feeling under their belts. Hopefully, we can go on from here."

Jonah should know: this is his third consecutive junior World Cup, representing Australia in 2013 and 2014. In both those years he was the youngest member of the team. No doubt Placid will again be instrumental in helping Australia "get the job done next game", against Italy on Sunday.

Jonah said the opening game was fast-paced, in very hot conditions, in front of an excited, vocal crowd and the Samoans were strong opposition.

"The opening game was great, fast for a very hot day," Placid said.

"There was a good crowd, very loud. Since it was hot the crowd were even better with everyone trying to fit in the shady parts of the stands. But people in the sun just had their shirts off and swinging them around. It was great. And the pitch was awesome. One of the best fields I have played on so far.

"I'm happy with how the team went because we knew the Samoans we're going to be coming at us with all they had. So the psychical side of the game was going to be tough. And it was."

Placid (pictured) added that the young Australian team was gelling well at this tournament. It didn't take long for them to come together. There are, however, aspects of their game they need to work on.

"At the start of the camp I knew probably half the team. It was a bit hard at the start, but after a couple of days everyone has become friends like natural," Placid explained.

"Things we need to improve on are probably our attacking, and what I mean about that is when we're in their half, we just need to better execute our pattern or shape."

Back home in Rocky, Jonah's mum Lorraine was justifiably proud of her son's commanding performance and his two tries, one in the first half and one late in the second.

"Jonah had a good game," Lorraine said.

"His whole game was excellent, he was everywhere. He scored two nice tries. Duncan played well too. He made some exciting line breaks, his kicking and passing were good, he had a solid match.

Like all good rugby mums, Lorraine had a good post match assessment on the match.

"The Aussie boys played really well and the game was played at a very fast pace. Their first half was brilliant, but in the second half the Aussie boys let Samoa back into the match and they were in the hunt with about 15 minutes to go. Then Jonah scored his second try and the Aussie captain, Andrew Kellaway, who also had a very good game on the wing, also scored and that sealed Australia's win."

Australia are in Pool B, and after winning against Samoa yesterday, will play Italy at the same stadium in Parma on Sunday. They then take on their toughest match, up against a very big, physical South Africa side on June 10 in Calvisano.



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