College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand
Continued playoff success for the Junior Warriors has seen changes in the NZ 18s team to take on Australian Schoolboys in Brisbane next week.
Three players – halves Erin Clark and Ata Hingano, and prop Amoni Tufui – have withdrawn from the national side, as the Warriors prepare for their National Youth Competition preliminary final against Penrith Panthers on Friday.
But in their place, NZ coach Rod Ratu has been able to promote two of the heroes of this week’s NZ Secondary Schools 30-22 victory over NSW Combined High Schools, also under his watch.
Front rowers Kenese Kenese and Isaiah Papalii follow Ratu across to the 18s programme, joined by Akarana’s Josh Farrant.
The age-group side face the Aussie Schools at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, September 27, and again on Thursday, October 1 at Wynnum.
The full squad to assemble in Auckland on Wednesday is:
Tarquinn Alatipi (Wellington), Whitiroa Davis (Akarana), Keanu Dawson (Upper Central), Josh Farrant (Akarana), Rory Ferguson (Southern), Jackson Ferris (Mid Central), Bostyn Hakaraia (Akarana), Morgan Harper (Upper Central), Phoenix Hunt (Counties Manukau), Kenese Kenese (Counties Manukau), Dean Kouka-Smith (Akarana), Rory Marshall-Barton (Counties Manukau), Tyrone Nathan (Counties Manukau), Fabian Paletua-Kiri (Mid-Central), Isaiah Papalii (Akarana), David Phillips (Counties Manukau), Chris Sio (Akarana), Lewis Soosemea (Counties Manukau), Auzzie Tuwhangai (Akarana)
NZ Secondary Schools have produced a 26-point second half to run down the visiting New South Wales Combined High Schools 30-22 at Massey Park, Papakura.
In a proverbial game of two halves, the young Kiwis overcame a 22-4 deficit to completely turn the tables on their guests, holding them scoreless after the break .
The young New Zealand side opened the scoring through a try from winger Michael Siale-Motu on their first possession, but quickly surrendered the advantage through a series of penalties and handling errors.
New South Wales ran in four tries – two from powerful centre Mathew Lyons and three of them converted by half Kieran Hayman – before half-time and the home team seemed to need some kind of inspiration just to keep the score-line respectable.
Whatever was discussed over oranges did the trick and the use of a gentle southerly also assisted.
New Zealand’s comeback began, when hooker David-John Phillips spun over for a try by the posts, converted by skipper Bostyn Hakaraia.
Halfback Zae Wallace set up the next try with a darting run near the line, before finding Josh Uta, and Siale-Motu secured his double, when NZ Schools capitalised on a penalty and set play inside NSW territory.
All three tries were converted by Hakaraia and suddenly, the scores were locked at 22-22.
By this stage, the Kiwis forwards had simply worn their counterparts down and the Australians could not muster an answer to the onslaught up the middle.
Winger Siave Tongoiu crossed in the corner to put New Zealand ahead and with time virtually up, Hakaraia found fullback Adam Wetere Pompey cutting back on an angle to seal the deal.
NSW Combined High Schools will now travel to Christchurch for a game against Canterbury Combined Schools, while several of the NZ Schools players will pull on the black jersey again next week, when NZ 18s take on the Australian Schools in a two-test series in Brisbane.
NZ Secondary Schools 30 (Michael Siale-Motu 2, David-John Phillips, Josh Uta, Siave Togoiu & Adam Wetere Pompey tries; Bostyn Hakaraia 3 goals) NSW Combined High Schools 22 (Mathew Lyons 2, Haze Dunster & Reece Robson tries; Kieran Hayman 3 goals); HT: 4-22
Starting Monday, NZ Secondary Schools rugby league coach Rod Ratu has a unique opportunity to take a generation of players to the next level of their game.
Of his game.
In the space of a couple of weeks, Ratu will guide the students side against New South Wales Combined High Schools, then take the NZ 18s across the ditch to face Australian Schools in Brisbane.
Five players – Bostyn Hakaraia, Phoenix Hunt, David-John Phillips, Chris Sio and Auzzie Tuwhangai – have been named for both teams.
“I’m apprehensive, I’m nervous … but excited that it’s another challenge,” says Ratu.
He’s had plenty of experience at club, rep and schools level, and already knows many of his charges through working with the NZ Warriors development programme.
But this is his first national team gig, so he isn’t sure how high the bar sits on this assignment, just that it is higher than he’s been before.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there, it’s another campaign and we’re preparing for another game.
“At the same time, we’ve got to make sure the effort is raised. We can’t sit comfortably on what we already know, we need to challenge ourselves, off the field, as well as on it.”
Ratu has had plenty of advice. At the NZRL National Performance Camp, he picked the brains of new NZRL high performance general manager and former Junior Kiwis coach Brent Gemmell, his predecessor and Warriors assistant coach Tony Iro, and Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.
“I took a lot of confidence from that camp, talking to those guys,” says Ratu. “They told me, in these short campaigns, you have to understand what you can manage and keep it simple.
“You have to make sure it’s an enjoyable process for yourself and the people concerned … the players.”
New South Wales finished stronger than their NZ counterparts in last year’s encounter at Westlake Boys High School, trailing early in the second half, but pulling away 28-16 in the final analysis.
Ratu has seen the footage and knows where his team must stamp their authority for a chance to turn the tables tomorrow.
“I’m very confident in our middles,” he says. “We are predominantly strong and powerful players, so we’ve selected this side with the intention of winning the battle in the middle of the field.
“I expect New South Wales to be highly skilful. They know the game well – they have great game intelligence – and it’s evident they will play the full 80 minutes.”
That, effectively, was the difference between the two sides last year, but Ratu is confident his players have the ability to go the distance this time.
The process of raising the bar began even before the NZ side entered camp on Friday. With the team’s only non-Aucklander, Dylan Clark, driving north from Tokoroa, they faced the Junior Warriors in an opposed practice run at Mt Smart Stadium last Wednesday.
“That’s an opportunity a rep team wouldn’t normally enjoy,” reflects Ratu. “The Warriors boys made a point of shaking their hands and wishing them luck afterwards.”
NZ SECONDARY SCHOOLS V NSW COMBINED HIGH SCHOOLS
Monday, September 21
Massey Park, Papakura
NZ Schools: Dylan Clark (Tokoroa HS), Bostyn Hakaraia (Mt Albert Grammar), Soane Hufunga (St Paul's College), Phoenix Hunt (Otahuhu College), Fine Inisi (Westlake BHS), Kenese Kenese (Manurewa HS), Isaiah Papalii (Mt Albert Grammar), David Phillips (Manurewa HS), Wetere Pompey (Weley College), Jan Sepuloni (Southern Cross Campus), Michael Siali-Motu (Manurewa HS), Chris Sio (St Paul's College), Alfred Smalley (Otahuhu College), Fuiva Takitaki (Southern Cross Campus), Siave Togia (Southern Cross Campus), Auzzie Tuwhanga (Mt Albert Grammar), Josh Uta (Manurewa HS), Zae Wallace (Westlake BHS)
Referee - Kiko Puhipi HIbbs
Touch - Antoinette Grootjans & Henare Chadwick
Otahuhu College captain Komiti Vetenotu guided his team to a dramatic comeback victory over St Paul's College to snatch the 2015 NZRL National Secondary Schools crown.
With a few moments remaining, St Paul's wing Daymon Abbey crossed in the corner for a try that gave his side a 17-12 lead and seemed to have clinched their 16th title.
But Otahuhu were not to be denied, responding in kind at the other end and leaving Vetenotu with a conversion attempt after the buzzer for victory.
With both teams huddled in prayer, Vetenotu coolly slotted his kick to send his team-mates into rapture and his opponents to despair.
"It was a team effort," he insisted afterwards. "If it wasn't for the boys scoring that try, I wouldn't have had the chance.
"No credit for me, all to the boys."
St Paul's seemed headed for a walkover, when they reached halftime 13-0 ahead.
But their rivals had not given up the ghost and with the ball at their backs after the restart, they piled on two converted tries to close the margin.
"I just kept telling the boys we had been in this position before and to have faith that we could come back," said Vetenotu.
Earlier this week, Otahuhu drew their final pool game with Westlake Boys High and needed a countback to progress to the semis.
"We've been trading points in other games, but this time we dug deep and came out victorious.
"I'm really proud of my boys - we stuck together from Day One and showed our full potential in this game."
Otahuhu's only previous national title came in 2011, when current Kiwis fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck inspired them to victory over St Paul's in the final.
Meanwhile, rugby union breeding ground Wesley College have successfully crossed over to the 13-a-side code, taking out the development final.
The South Auckland school have shown their rugby league potential over the past two seasons, storming through pool play at the last two tournaments.
They ran up 50 points on each of their pool opponents this week and cruised past Francis Douglas Memorial College 30-4 in yesterday's semi-finals.
But after dominating last year's plate competition in similar fashion, Wesley hit the wall in the final, falling to Papatoetoe High School at the last hurdle.
This year, they completed their assignment, defeating St Thomas of Canterbury 18-12, but had to dig deep.
The southerners jumped out to an early advantage, through tries to Aukilani Tu'au and Klayton Waikato.
But Wesley hit back to draw level shortly before halftime and clinched the win, when half Wetere Pompey split the defence for a try, which he then converted.
"I guess, for me and the team, it was a matter of having that experience and knowing what to do when the heat came on," said coach Lawrence Lawrence.
"Wesley is known for rugby, but a lot of the boys come into the school from a league background and it's a matter of tapping back into that."
Management are now resigned to promotion to the big time - the championship grade - next year.
Summary Of Results
Day 1: Otahuhu College: 22 (Alred Smalley 2, Paletasala Patelesio & Joseph Afemui tries; Komiti Vetemotu 3 goals) Aorere HS: 0
Day 2: Otahuhu College 20 (Henry Pei 2, Pahiva Fonua & Don Seuala tries; Komiti Vetemotu 2 goals) Whangarei BHS 6 (Wiremu Greig try; Dylan Brown goal)
Day 3: Otahuhu College: 24 (Phoenix Hunt 2, Alfred Smalley & Paletasala Patelesio tries; Sion Fineisaloi 4 goals) Westlake BHS: 24 (Hemi McCarthy, Moses Leo, Zae Wallace & Ryan Doubell tries; Wallace 4 tries)
Semi-final: Otahuhu College 24 (Don Seuala, Alfred Smalley, Phoenix Hunt, Henry Pei & Joseph Afemui tries; Sion Fineisaloi 2 goals) Tamaki College: 18 (George Salu 2, Johnny Tea & Lepa Tua tries; Takerei goal)
Final: Otahuhu College: 18 (Pohiva Fonna, Alvin Vaisa & Komiti Vetenotu tries; Vetenotu 3 goals) St Paul's College: 17 (Daymon Abbey, Sione Fakapelea & Sione Ngahe tries; Beau Cordtz two goals, Dylan Tavita one field goal)
Credit - NZRL Press Release
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand