Top seeds St Paul’s College live to chase their 16th NZRL National Secondary Schools title, when this year’s tournament enters the semi-final stage at Papakura’s Bruce Pulman Park tomorrow.
But their progress comes at the expense of defending champions Otahuhu College, who bowed out with an 18-6 loss to Aorere College in their final pool outing.
Over the opening two days of the 2016 event, Pool A of the premiership competition had developed into a cut-throat affair, with all four teams locked at 1-1 (one win, one loss) and a countback looming.
After their loss to Otahuhu yesterday, St Paul’s needed to defeat Manakura School and hope Aorere could do them a favour in the later game. They took care of their end of that equation, dispatching the Palmerston North school 42-12, and then stuck around to find out their fate.
Aorere led Otahuhu 14-6 at half-time and scored the only try of the second spell to dispatch the titleholders.
In the knockout round, St Paul’s, beaten in the last two national finals and hunting their first title since 2012, face Southern Cross Campus College, who advanced unbeaten from Pool C with a 40-8 romp over Aranui High School.
The other semi-final sees Kelston Boys High School, chasing their fourth title and third in four years, take on Westlake Boys High School, both whom secured an unblemished record through pool play.
Kelston outlasted Mt Albert Grammar 22-12 in a rematch of the 2013 final, while Westlake progressed to their first semi-final with a 30-18 win over Avondale College.
Rugby league lives in the shadows of union at Westlake, but this performance must certainly grab some of the spotlight from the 15-a-side code.
“This was a really good result today,” said Westlake coach Jamie Williamson. “We knew if we came out and got the win, we’d go through to the top four, so we’re really looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow.
“We knew Avondale would be big and physical through the middle. We’re not the biggest outfit, so we knew we had to rung them off the park and it worked well for us.
“Making it this far is huge and that’s half of the drive we have with the boys. We’ve been trying to push rugby league [at school] over the past couple of years and a result like this will help.”
While the premiership race was close, the most dramatic finish of the day came in the development grade, where Sir Edmund Hillary College handed Trident High School their first loss to set up a three-way tie, along with Mt Roskill Grammar, in Pool E.
All three shared a 1-1 head-to-head record among themselves, so the countback reverted to points difference, with Trident shading Sir Edmund Hillary for the top spot.
They will now face Onehunga High School in one semi, while Sir Edmund Hillary take on Tai Wananga, who emerged unbeaten from Pool F.
NZRL NATIONAL SECONDARY SCHOOLS TOURNAMENT
Bruce Pulman Park, Papakura
Wednesday, August 31
St Paul’s College 42 Manukura School 12, Kelston BHS 22 Mt Albert Grammar 12, Tokoroa HS 16 Wesley College 14, Westlake BHS 30 Avondale College 18, Manurewa HS 28 Papatoetoe HS 14, Aorere College 18 Otahuhu College 6, Tamaki College 22 St Thomas of Canterbury 16, Southern Cross Campus College 40 Aranui HS 8
Mt Roskill Grammar 30 Francis Douglas Memorial College 14, Tai Wananga 48 Papakura HS 10, Sir Edmund Hillary College 20 Trident HS 12
Looking for USA Scholarships? Check out USA CONNECT
Looking for $40000 University of Waikato Study Scholarships CLICK HERE
Looking for Sport Exchange Opportunities to Australia CLICK HERE
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand