Known by her middle name, Manukura's captain took centre stage for her rugby First XV last week when they completed an unbeaten season by beating St Mary’s College, Wellington, in the Hurricanes region final.
Manukura defeated St Mary’s 19-12 in a gripping tussle in Palmerston North and Elinor-Plum King was in the thick of the action. The openside flanker was a turnover terrier, leading lineout jumper and a shining example of the fruits of hard work.
Elinor is her first name and Plum her middle name, hence Elinor-Plum on teamsheets. “Growing up, and still today, people always call me Plum, so that has stuck,” she told College Sport Media last week after the Hurricanes final.
Elinor-Plum is one of two players in the current Manukura team who are in this year’s Manawatu Cyclones Women’s NPC rugby squad, alongside Holly-Rae Mete-Renata.
The pair have played several matches each for the Cyclones throughout this year’s NPC, which was put on hold for a month from mid-August due to lockdowns but reaches its zenith this coming weekend with the finals which Manawatu are part of.
“I play openside flanker for school and for the Cyclones, and Holly-Rae plays midfield or flanker for our school team but she plays wing for the Cyclones.”
Playing blindside flanker, Holly-Rae scored the first of her team’s three tries in the final from a break 40 metres out and runaway to the line. Manukura would lead 12-7 at halftime and score the opening try of the second half which proved enough for victory.
“It was a hard game against St Mary’s, our toughest game of the year,” said Elinor-Plum, “but we won and achieved our goal for the season, which was to go undefeated.”
As well as winning this match, another notable win for Manukura was beating two-time defending national Top 4 champions Hamilton Girls’ High School 33-15 in June.
They comfortably won the Manawatu Secondary Schoolgirls competition and beat Feilding High School the previous week before playing St Mary’s.
The Top 4 was last contested in 2019, with Covid-19 preventing the last two tournaments from going ahead. So for five year 13s in the current side, last week’s win over St Mary’s was their final 15s game for their school. These players were Elinor-Plum, Holly-Rae, lock Katiola Afemui, hooker Kaea Boyd and wing Tui Aroha.
The Condor 7s went ahead last year and it is still hoped it can be played this year too. Manukura had a great run in Condors in 2020.
“We finished second to Howick College in the final last year, so that was really fun to be part of.”
Girls rugby at Manukura has come a long way since starting in 2015 with a 10-a-side team.
Elinor-Plum doesn’t have a preference for 15s or sevens. “I really enjoy playing sevens but 15s is more for me, it suits my game.”
As well as for school, many of Manukura’s players play club rugby, and a large contingent played for the Kia Toa and Feilding Old Boys-Oroua sides that met in the Manawatu club final earlier this winter.
“Most of us that played club rugby this year played for FOBO, except for a couple of girls who played for Kia Toa.”
Elinor-Plum’s FOBO side lost the final, but her consistent form saw her selected in the Cyclones squad, alongside Hollyrae.
“I didn’t know I was going to be picked, but when I got told by coach Fusi Feaunati it was really exciting.”
She made her NPC debut for Manawatu in the team’s round two win over Taranaki, starting at openside flanker, and has played five competition matches since. She scored her first NPC try in Manawatu’s 67-12 win over Hawke’s Bay in early August.
This coming weekend Manawatu plays Hawke’s Bay in the NPC Championship final - against her home province. She is from Ongaonga in central Hawke’s Bay, about 20km inland from Waipukurau.
“That’s where I started playing rugby, I have been playing since I was four and I started playing rippa rugby.”
Many of Manukura’s students are from outside Palmerston North. There is no hostel per se at the school, Elinor-Plum and outside students live with their whanau or with families of others around the city.
Next year, Elinor-Plum hopes to go to Massey University in Palmerston North and to continue playing club and hopefully representative rugby.
With the 15s season over, Manukura’s sevens programme starts shortly, with the team scheduled to play in the annual Hurricanes Schools 7s tournament in Masterton at the end of October.
Story and Manukura team photos by Steven White, for College Sport Media, October 2021.
Nelson College are South Island First XV rugby champions for the second time in three years. Ollie Inch is captain and centre in 2021. He has featured in just about every game the past three seasons.
Saturday’s 27-19 victory over Otago Boys’ High School in the South Island final at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium was his 50th appearance for the First XV.
“We had one job to do and we were pretty excited coming off last week’s big win. It’s been a long season, Covid slowed things down a bit, but I couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” Inch said.
“We had to trust our skills and stick to the game plan to beat Otago. We have got a big pack and if we execute our plan then it makes it tough for the opposition.”
In bright sunshine, Nelson started at a breakneck pace with a 14-phase attack before prop Ben Lefale rampaged into a gap to score under the posts. Cooper Grant converted and landed a penalty soon after to put Nelson up 10-0 after just six minutes.
Inch, Grant and halfback Wil Thornalley were potent and further tries to Nelson fullback Nic Sauira, and hulking blindside Netani Baleisomosomo put the visitors well clear. However, Otago struck back with two quick tries of their own, setting up a tense last quarter with Nelson leading 27-19.
“We didn’t have the ball, made too many mistakes, and were trapped in our half, defending for a long period. Otago are a quality side and if you give them a sniff they will take a mile.
“We had to work hard over lockdown to maintain fitness. That was left up to individual players to push themselves. Our ability to defend for long periods and finish strong in other games showed we put the work in.”
It was a minor miracle Nelson was involved in the South Island final in the first place. A week earlier at Trafalgar Park, Nelson was down 15-3 at halftime to Christ’s College in the final of the Crusaders First XV championship. However, tries to Baleisomosomo, Jayden Waharoa and Timi Sauria turned the deficit into a 22-20 win. It was a repeat of the annual quadrangular final where Nelson flipped a 20-3 disadvantage at the break to prevail 27-25.
“Christ’s are a quality side, well-drilled with lots of passion for their school. We came out of the gates slowly which wasn’t the plan, but we knew after Quad we could do it. We had to put our heads down, increase our intensity and get our forward game going.
“As captain I try to stay positive. We have a mantra in our team: Next job. You can’t get your tails between your legs. Things happen quickly so staying positive and accepting the odd mistake will happen is vital.
“We have a pretty good culture driven by the coaches. We do a lot of travelling so we have someone in charge of the music, games on the bus. It’s a good balance between serious and a lot of fun.”
Inch models his own game on Nelson College All Black David Havili and was touched when several Tasman Mako presented the team jerseys at the 2020 Quadrangular tournament.
Nelson won the Crusaders Championship in 2019, beating Christchurch Boys’ High School 35-31 in the final. Prior to that success they’d only won the championship once in 2007 when they foiled St Bede’s College 31-26 in the final. That season Nelson won 19 of 22 games and attended the National Top Four. Which season was more enjoyable for Inch?
“It’s tough to pick because they were so different. In 2019 I was a young buck. I looked up to a lot of boys. This year I was a leader and had to be a role model so it’s nice to leave the team in good shape.”
Nelson College rugby is rarely in bad shape. The school played the very first game of rugby in New Zealand on May 14, 1870. The First XV have enjoyed many golden eras. Between 1996 and 1998 the side won 76 out of 91 games including the Quadrugular each year. The same feat happened from 1946 to 1949 when the record was 56 wins in 63 games. In 1959 the First XV was unbeaten in 20 games.
Nelson has won the Quadrangular five times since 2015. In 2019 they won 16 out of 19 games, attending the National Top Four. This season the only blemishes in 17 games were a 12-12 draw against Christchurch Boys’ High School and a 14-17 setback to Marlborough Boys’ College. Additionally, Rongotai College and Wellington champions St Patrick’s College, Silverstream were crushed in a pre-season tour of the capital.
Inch is planning to head to Lincoln University next year where he will play rugby and study commerce and agriculture.
Story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
For the first time this millennium Kelston Boys’ High School are 1A First XV champions. The West Auckland outfit were declared official winners of the competition, abandoned last week, with just a single round-robin fixture, semis, and a final remaining.
Any doubts about Kelston’s championship credentials can be quickly banished by looking at their season record. All 10 1A matches were won by an average score of 32-9 and across the entire season 18 consecutive victories were achieved. Furthermore, names with strong links to a successful past forged their own legacy of success.
Senita Lauaki was selected in the New Zealand Barbarians Under 18 squad. He is the younger brother of late All Black Sione Lauaki, a damaging loose forward and talisman for young Tongans.
“My brother Sione Lauaki in our family is known as Tupu because his full name is Sione Tu’itupu Lauaki. The last time Kelston won the 1A title was when my brother was playing, and it was also his last year. My drive this year was to win the title back. This is my way of keeping his legacy alive and staying close to him,” Senita said.
Ironically Senita is also No.8. Sione was a loose forward in the 1998 Kelston First XV that remarkably beat St Kentigern’s College 58-13 in the 1A final. Centurion All Black Mils Muliaina also featured in that game.
“My strength is my work ethic and doing my job. Leadership is not really hard; it’s about being simple. We come in, have a breath, process things and try to do something different,” Senita observed.
“I think we did well this year because we know each other so well and could say “bro you're not doing this right, holding each other to account.”
Kelston were runners up in the 2020 Condor Sevens and have fashioned an impressive record in the Under-15 and 2nd XV grades. Most local boys have been persuaded to stay rather than accepting scholarships elsewhere, an issue which has affected depth in the recent past. Kelston had failed to make the 1A semi-finals since 2011.
Halfback Sam Howling will join Senita in the New Zealand Barbarians. His brother is old boy Matt Howling who coaches the First XV and is director of rugby at the college. Sam complements the ‘follow me’ approach of Senita by being “more of a talker.”
“I do most of the chatting with the ref and fire the boys up. My job is to deliver first and only have a crack when it’s on. My brother is a good thinker. He does a lot of in-depth analysis, breaking the game down,” Sam said.
“We had belief we could do it. We’ve stuck together and last year had a few moments where we really clicked. Clicking more consistently was the challenge.”
Howling (left) and Lauaki (right) playing against Dilworth College.
In pre-season Kelston destroyed Gisborne Boys’ High School 71-6 at the Rectory, warning rivals of what could happen when the team clicked. Their 44-7 demolition of St Kentigern College to start 1A was even more impressive. The home field that day was named after All Black wing and former pupil Va'aiga Tuigamala.
St Peter’s College was second and defending champions King’s College third in 1A. Kelston toppled both.
“They were hard games. They challenged us physically and had a lot of threats. It would have been tough to play again,” Howling said.
Senita identified Tauranga Boys’ College as the toughest opponent.
“Playing those boys was different, their type of physicality, they loved the ruck, country boys, they beat Hamilton Boys. They were good.”
The ability to adapt to different styles served Kelston well. Outstanding loose forward Zyon Maiuu has signed with the Warriors. Midfield back Essendon Tuitupou (son of former Kelston All Black Sam Tuitupou) and huge prop Tony Tafa were picked for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team.
“Essendon is a good centre. He passes good which gives his outsides lots of chances. He can hurt in the tackle too,” Sam observed.
At times Tafa has resembled a raging bull which Senita laughs requires careful management.
“I don’t really talk to him. If he does something wrong I go, ‘Oh Tony’ and he seems to know. If we really need to talk to him, I get one of the other boys to do it.”
The New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarians will play the curtain raiser to a Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on 8 October.
“To be honest I didn’t know the difference between the two teams. It’s only the beginning. The environment is going to be different being around experienced people, getting to know new players and learning things at a top level,” Senita said.
Senita enjoys history and is planning to study clinical psychology at university next year. Sam is seeking a building apprenticeship. Matt Howling attended Kelston from 2005 to 2010. After a period in England he took up teaching and has been coaching at the college for three years. He was ably supported by old boy and staff member Athens Henare who captained the 1993 and 1994 First XV’s to Auckland glory.
Kelston BHS Results: 2021
Massey High School, 38-12
Ponsonby U21, 43-19
Hastings BHS, 28-12
Westlake BHS, 38 -7
Gisborne BHS, 71-6
Wesley College, 43- 8
St Pauls & Liston College, Won both halves
Tauranga BHS, 17-3
1A 1st XV Results
St Kentigern College, 44 -7
Mount Albert Grammar School, 24 - 13
St Peter’s College, 17 - 12
Aorere College, 39-0
Tangaroa College, 26-5
Dilworth College, 40-21
Sacred Heart College, 26-15
De La Salle College, 29-5
King’s College, 22-17
Liston College, 57-0
1A Auckland Champions: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998
National Top Four Champions: 1995, 1996, 1999
Moascar Cup Holders: 1999
World Secondary Schools Champions: 1998
Biggest Win v Major Opponent: 86-3 v Sacred Heart, 1999
School Records For Most Wins And Points In A Season: 1998
Coaches: Gary Henley-Smith, Logan McPherson, Bruce Cunningham, Rob Sturch, Bryan Megson, Dennis Matene, Nigel Hotham.
Manager: Chris Parsons.
Did You Know?
The 1995 1A title was decided in one of the strangest games of schoolboy rugby ever played. Kelston had to beat Mount Albert Grammar School to be guaranteed of the title. The game was originally scheduled to be played at Eden Park number two. However when the club game on the number one ground between Suburbs and University was hastily transferred, because of strange pregame antics by the clubs, a decision was made to transfer the school game onto the number one ground. The school game kicked off at 1:30pm and was reduced to 27 minutes and a half because there was another game due to kick off at 2:30pm. Kelston took an early lead when Shane Connelly scored a try and Loki Crichton kicked a penalty. However, Mount Albert snatched the lead late in the game, when they scored an intercept try after Kelston looked likely to score. Logan McPherson recalled in the Western Leader at the time. “When Mount Albert scored their length of the field intercept try, I wondered whether we’d have the time to claw our way back.” With three minutes to go Crichton positioned himself for a drop goal and sent the ball between the uprights to give Kelston the win in the nick of time.
Kelston have won the Auckland 1A title a dozen times overall with their first title in 1977. They won the first of the five National Top Four titles in 1989 and have won the Condor Sevens five times. They held the Moascar Cup in 1999, 2011 and 2012.
Interview and story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
Christ’s College First XV was at its lowest ebb in 2015 when embarrassed 80-0 on national television by fiercest rivals Christchurch Boys’ High School. Soon to be All Black Will Jordan scored four tries while Christ’s supporters sarcastically chanted ‘we want your coaches.’
That summer the cleanout was swift. New coaches, new players and a new culture was installed. Christ’s topped the round robin of the then UC Championship in 2016 - beaten in the semi-finals by Timaru Boys’ High School.
In 2018 another milestone in the cultural shift of the First XV occurred when a new haka was introduced. It was composed by Wiremu Gray, school counsellor and wellbeing facilitator for Māori youth in Christchurch.
Entitled ‘Te Kura Karaiti’ the haka symbolises the coming together of the school family by paying homage to school heritage, values and culture. It challenges the boys to rise up, warning opponents that Christ’s love their team and school.
This Saturday Christ’s travels to Trafalgar Park to tackle Nelson College in the Myles Toyota championship First XV final. Christ’s haka will be led by loose forward and recent Maori Under-18 selection Hendrix Taylor (Ngāti Kahungunu).
“I’ve led the Haka for two years and for me it is a huge privilege,” Taylor says.
“I’ve been involved in Kapa Haka and though I don’t speak Maori the culture is a big part of my identity. I want to learn more about it. We practice the haka hard. The boys enjoy doing it. It’s important.”
Greater backbone and substance has been a feature of Christ’s rugby since 2016. They have made the semi-finals or better five times in the past six seasons and this year knocked over top qualifier St Bede’s College to earn a place in the decider.
“That was one of our top games. It was tight to start with but then we went down two tries. We got stuck in and it got close in the second half. We fixed a couple of things, played tight, and got the win.”
The outcome of the St Bede’s match was the opposite of the first meeting with Nelson College which also doubled as the annual Quadrangular Tournament final.
Christ’s was ahead 20-3 at halftime with all three tries scored by wing Jack Belcher happening the same way. Remarkably Nelson rallied to win.
“I don’t know what happened. Maybe we dropped our guard a little which you can’t do against a good side like Nelson. They’ve got some big boys and used them well.
Three of the last six matches have been decided by two points or less with Nelson winning on four occasions and Christ’s twice. Since 2016 Christ’s have won 64 competition matches and Nelson 63.
The storied rivalry between the schools stretches back to 1925 and the beginning of the Quadrangular Tournament. In those games Nelson has enjoyed 31 wins, Christ’s 25 with four draws.
Taylor attended an Area School in Year 9 before moving to Rangiora High School the following year. In 2019 he was offered and accepted a scholarship to Christ’s.
“My dad Johnny really encouraged me to take the scholarship. Christ’s has been the best decision for me. It was a bit of a shock when I first arrived with the discipline and all that.
“Christ’s has helped me do better academically and we're so lucky with our coaches and resources.”
This First XV is coached by former Hurricanes and Crusaders lock Ross Kennedy, All Black Sam Broomhalll and 2018 Tasman National Winning Sevens captain Sam Chamberlain.
“They’ve got a lot of experience and pride. You respect people more when they’ve been there and done that.
“I’ve typically been a loose forward. I like to carry and hustle on defence even though I’m not the biggest guy.
“In the reps I’ve been playing a bit of hooker. I’m only six-foot whereas other guys are a lot taller. I like hooker. It suits my style.”
A highlight of any season is the ‘College match’ against Christchurch Boys’ High School. This year Christ’s won 35-34.
“It’s a great experience with the whole school going crazy and good competition. We were up 18-10 at halftime and then Boys’ High got a couple of lucky tries. Our captain and lock Johnny Lee scored a try from a charge down. That was crucial.”
Christ’s has never won a Crusaders First XV championship title. They lost the very first final in 2001 to Christchurch Boys’ High School. In 2018 they drew 18-18 against the same opponent - cruelly denied glory because of the concession of one more try.
“We go up to Nelson on Friday and will be well prepared. We have to stick to our game plan which is good set-piece, having a crack if it’s on, and shutting down their big men. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got belief.”
Nelson College has won the title in 2007 and 2019. Captain Ollie Inch (12) and lock Hunter Leppien were involved in that game. New Zealand Barbarians flanker Netani Baleisomosomo is a major threat.
The final kicks off at midday on Saturday.
The New Zealand Secondary School U18 Māori side will take part in a game of three halves with the New Zealand Schools’ and Barbarians squads. A yet to be confirmed fixture is likely to be played in October.
Interview and story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
Crusaders First XV Championship last three finals:
2018: Christchurch BHS: 18 v Christ’s College: 18
The first drawn final was an epic tussle influenced significantly by the wind. Christ’s enjoyed its strength in the first-half and after two minutes second-five Shin Miyake kicked a 47-metre penalty to put Christ’s on the board. He followed that success with a penalty from halfway to double the score after a quarter of an hour.
Christchurch attacked sporadically and Cullen Moody missed a penalty out in front before Christ’s broke through and scored a try through George Coull, converted by Miyake to make it 13-0. Moody kicked a penalty just before halftime and Christchurch turned ten points down.
Christ’s attacked early in the second-half with no reward. Christchurch rallied and Corban Harding scored after 46 minutes to make it 13-8, Christ’s Coull played a blinder and in the 51st minute secured his second try in the corner to stretch Christ’s advantage 18-8. Miyake’s conversion started wide right and then came back with the wind and hit the post!
Christchurch regrouped and a try to Thomas Shmack, unconverted by Moody, set up a tight finish at 18-13. Sam Darry was captain of Christ’s on the day. The talented, lock has since played Super Rugby for the Blues. His memory of the final minutes, are vivid.
“Play went back and forward for about ten minutes before Boys’ High broke through and Ryan Barnes scored out wide in the 67th minute. Thankfully Cullen’s kick sprayed left and he missed again to make it 18-18 with three to go. We kicked off and regained the ball through Amlaoibh Porter. We rumbled up field through forward runners. This was a deliberate plan to reduce risk of error and negate the wind. We got to the 22 before passing it back to Kurtis Weeks who tried a drop goal from 22 out in front. Unfortunately, the wind caught the ball and it fell short. Christchurch regained possession and got a penalty. We were offside. They kicked it out to end the game and win because they scored more tries. I’m really proud of the way the boys played that day. It was an epic match.”
2019: Nelson College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 31
Nelson won their first title since 2007 overhauling a halftime deficit to topple Christchurch BHS on a muddy home field. Nelson scored 24 consecutive points in the second half, with captain Anton Segner highlighting his enormous potential by scoring two tries in a man of the match performance. The openside flanker has since played for the champion Taman NPC team.
Christchurch made the perfect start by going 18 phases from the kick off before scoring through prop Sam Frame.
The play was initiated by impressive second-five Keegan McGregor who had a hand in three of his team's tries, including one he scored himself from an inception inside the first 10 seconds of the second half.
Nelson caught fire with a passionate and precise forward display.
Niko Barton finished with 15 points for Nelson, nailing six of his seven attempts at goal. That contribution proved valuable as Christchurch outscored Nelson five tries to four. Connor Johnston and Daniel Rogers also crossed the stripe for the victors.
2020: St Andrew’s College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 26
St Andrew’s College won their first title but initially that appeared unlikely. Campbell Burnes reported:
After early tries to hooker Charlie Baker and centre and co-captain Callum Simpson, it appeared that Christchurch’s big match experience – 14 finals in 20 years – was going to again tell. The breeze was also in its favour.
But STAC’s comeback emanated from a bustling try to centre Isi Saumake, the first of a brace to the hard to stop No 13. The STAC pack, led by lock Jamie Carr, son of the late All Blacks logistics manager Kevin ‘Chalky’ Carr, rolled its sleeves up and brought total commitment to its endeavors, offering no respite to its more highly touted counterparts.
STAC fullback Jack Forrest showed a good step to edge his side in front five minutes into the second stanza. Christchurch clawed its way back onto the final, and was at 26-28 when STAC sub Conor Newton raced 55m to score between the uprights after a ruck turnover to cement the win.
STAC’s bench offered full impact and there were emotional scenes at fulltime as the STAC supporters were in full voice during their haka.
Mānawa means to give everything until the last beat of your heart. It’s a mantra embraced by the St Thomas of Canterbury College First XV. Few have actioned the concept better in 2021 than captain Jack Coulthard. The cheerful, articulate and inspirational flanker is on the cusp of leading St Thomas into their maiden Miles Toyota Crusaders First XV Premiership semi-final.
With two bonus points, or a draw, against top of the table St Bede’s College on Saturday, St Thomas will qualify. Ironically Coulthard wanted to go to St Bede’s.
“I was looking at going to St Bede’s even though my brother went to St Thomas,” Coulthard revealed.
“I was persuaded to come to St Thomas by Mr Hart. I wanted to play rugby and I could see he was passionate about it. There were talented boys everywhere and I could tell they were building something.”
Steve Hart has been principal of the Catholic boys’ school for four years. His sales pitch wasn’t just bluster. In his first year at the college Coulthard was a member of an undefeated team.
Rowing, league, and basketball would soon distract the talented teen. Rowing helped build strength and fitness in the summer - Coulthard, good enough to win a bronze medal in the South Island rowing championships. League is a sport with historical appeal at St Thomas and Coulthard caught the bug helping the Halswell Hornets win a local grand final and representing the South Island Scorpions. In basketball he was a Canterbury age group representative.
“I was a tall kid so I started as a lock. My parents got me into rowing where I discovered how unfit I was. I was just a tall guy running around like a headless chicken. Rowing helped me develop a better mentality with my fitness. I really liked basketball, but in Year 11, I really decided to focus on rugby.”
Recovery from a broken collarbone and residing behind First XV skipper Kole Harmer meant 2020 was somewhat bitter-sweet for Coulthard.
“I got a few games but spent most of the time learning from Kole because he was in my position. Kole is phenomenal. He set really high standards. We had some amazing individual achievements in 2020, but we didn’t share the common mindset so our overall result was disappointing.”
St Thomas won five games in the Miles Toyota Championship in 2018, a tally they have improved on every year since. In 2020 they won eight games and this year they have nine wins. Last season they defeated eventual champions St Andrew’s College 23-14 but finished eighth. Despite winning more games than Shirley Boys’ High School and Nelson College, in sixth and seventh respectively, St Thomas was six points adrift of the top four.
Old Boy and former All Black hooker Mark Hammett is coach. The present Director of Rugby is Johnny Leo’o, involved in coaching at the college since 2016. He is a health/science teacher and Pasifika advisor too.
Leo’o is a proven winner. The flanker played 71 games for Canterbury and won two National provincial titles and the Ranfurly Shield. In 48 games for the Crusaders he was a part of three Super Rugby winning teams. From 2007 to 2014 he played for Racing 92 in France helping the former strugglers gain promotion to the lucrative Top 14. He selected Coulthard as his captain.
“It was a pretty big honor to be named the captain. The key to being a good leader is not to be a traffic cop. I bark a few ideas and try to inspire the boys, but we have to all share a common goal.
“We're trying to change the mentality of being an underdog school to being a school with a target on our backs. We have the right mindset, players, facilities and coaches to beat anyone.”
There is no such thing as an easy game against St Thomas anymore. Their three defeats this season have been by a combined margin of 13 points against St Andrew’s and two top four sides Nelson College and Timaru Boys’ High School. Both Christchurch Boys’ High School and Christ’s College have been tamed.
“The win against Christchurch was my highlight of the season so far. We beat them by 40 points a couple of years ago but this year it was a real dog fight. They scored first and then we scored and they scored. They got two tries ahead, but we won right at the death and were bloody ecstatic.
"We had the school storm the field and parents in tears. It was an unreal feeling, like no other.”
Last Saturday St Thomas was forced to rally from a mile behind to topple Christ’s. Two tries from Coulthard helped get the job done.
“Christ’s are a well-drilled team and had a strong wind behind them in the first-half. We weren’t good on defence though and went to the break 25-7 down. We got two quick tries in the second-half and then an intercept to lead 31-25. They hammered our line for the last 10 minutes and well into extra time. We did crack, but luckily they missed the kick. It’s only the fourth time in our history we have beaten Christ’s.”
The number of teams at St Thomas has increased from eight to 10 and the vast majority of the First XV will return in 2022. The school roll is 630.
Napier Boys’ High School retained the Polson Banner with a 27-17 away victory over Palmerston North Boys’ High School on Wednesday afternoon.
An overwhelming display of first half forward power paved the way to victory for Napier. The visitors collected all their points in the opening stanza and tellingly three tries were scored by forwards.
The kick-off was tipped by Napier openside Max Ratcliffe and the Napier forwards bullied their way inside the 22 with a well organised sequence of 10 phases. A penalty handy to the posts was slotted by halfback Cory Berkett.
Palmerston North responded swiftly with a bust by impressive second-five Leo Gordon. A 32-metre penalty followed by fullback Curtis Heaphy and it was 3-3.
The belligerent Napier forwards soon arrested control and the first try was scored from a lineout drive by hooker Tyrone Crystal - a mini-tank version of former Napier Boys’ turned Wellington Lions hooker Tyrone Thompson.
It was fitting a lineout drive was the source of a try. Napier employed the maul with relentless precision. In the second half when Palmerston North threatened to rally it was the drive that buried that possibility.
Jared Martin scored the second try on the left wing after a skip pass by Berkett avoided two players and found the unmarked lossehead. Such was the force of the Napier drive Martin had actually withdrawn from the most recent maul and positioned himself for a short-side carry.
Tighthead colleague Gus Brown was named man of the match for his bustle and industry.
Ratcliffe would profit next from Napier’s suffocating strategy. Palmerston North were enveloped in tight, leaving space out wide for Napier to claim a 24-3 lead in as many minutes.
It could have been worse for Palmerston North. However, Napier showed mercy with a close range penalty to first-five Tim Slabberook, making it 27-3 at the interval.
Napier was guilty of falling asleep at the start of the second half.
In the 40th minute the determined Gordon flashed off the right foot and beat two defenders to touch down under the sticks. When Slabberook was yellow-carded for accidentally knocking his opponent in the face, the pair were contesting a high-kick, Palmerston North was rejuvenated. Reserve prop Javahn Stevenson smashed over to reduce the margin to 27-15 with 17 minutes left. Heaphy added the extras from the sideline.
Napier mauled Palmerston North from their own ten-metre mark to within a whisker of the paint with two lineout drives. With such overt ascendancy Napier weren’t likely losers, despite a valiant effort from Palmerston North, especially blindside and skipper Joe Simpson-Smith,
Napier coach Brendan Ratcliffe declared his teams’ performance their “best half of the season” and warned “his team can play.” Napier finished Super 8 with three wins and will host Palmerston North (two Super 8 wins) in a Hurricanes Regional National Top Four qualifying playoff on August 21.
About the Polson Banner
The Polson Banner is one of the oldest interschool rugby trophies up for grabs in New Zealand. It was first played for in 1907 but "back dated" to 1904 to record all of the fixtures between the schools.
The original silk banner was donated by the 1902-12 NBHS headmaster, A.S. Polson, and has the colours and the crest of the two respective schools on the reverse sides. The scores for each year's match has been embroidered on the banner over the years.
Polson Banner Statistics
Palmerston North BHS Won: 64
Napier BHS Won: 48
Palmerston North BHS Biggest Win: 45-3, 1981, Won 51-10 in 2015.
Napier BHS Biggest Win: 50-21, 2020
Payton Takimoana has had rugby on her mind from a young age.
“I have known about rugby ever since I can remember and I have been playing since I was five,” she said.
“Ever since I put my hands on that ball, I fell in love with the game.”
Four years ago, at the start of year 10, Payton moved down from Waihi to Mount Maunganui College seeking greater opportunities in sport and education.
“I moved here for a year without my family and stayed with family friends, but then my family moved here as well.
“It has been the best move ever, there have been so many opportunities here.”
Last week one of those opportunities opened up for Payton when she was named as the youngest member of the Bay of Plenty Volcanix squad for the Women’s NPC Farah Palmer Cup competition, which starts this weekend.
Payton, 17, is the only school student selected for BoP in 2021, but she is far from overawed by her selection and possible FPC debut in the coming weeks.
Up to a dozen of her Mount Maunganui Marlins club rugby team teammates are also her provincial teammates.
“All these players have helped me improve a lot and being around and learning off the best players has been so good for me.”
She also regularly trains at the nearby Adams High Performance Centre – home of the Black Ferns Men’s and Women’s Sevens training squads.
“I have been training with the BoP players about five times a week." This also includes rubbing shoulders with the Black Ferns players. “I am close friends with some of them, so I know them well.”
A few weeks ago, Payton was part of the Marlins team that won a thrilling 2021 BoP Women's Premier club rugby final, beating Rangiuru 25-24 with a last-gasp winning penalty after conceding a 79th minute try. This was Payton’s club’s maiden club rugby title in her second season in the team.
Payton played second five-eighth that day, but that is not her usual position. “I played at 12, but I had been playing first-five throughout the season and also last year.”
Following the final, she was picked in a wider BoP Women’s initial wider squad and has already played two pre-season games. They beat Hawke’s Bay 29-17 and lost to Counties Manukau 5-12. “That was a definite step up for me– I found it more aggressive and faster than club rugby, but I loved it.”
In those games she played variously at fullback, wing and first-five – so her versatility and utility value as a fresh face in the backs is a strength.
Last week she was waiting for the selection announcement by her phone. “I was checking social media every couple of minutes and when I saw my name I was happy!”
She also plays rugby for her school team, who play every Monday in a Baywide competition. “But we only play 10-a-side rugby because we don’t have enough girls players."
That may change in the future now that Payton is showing the way for the younger sports girls coming through.
She plays sevens rugby, but her school hasn’t been able to muster a side to attend the Condor 7s tournament in her time there.
“But last year I made the New Zealand Maori U18 sevens team who played in the World Schools Sevens tournament that was played a week after Condors. I have also just the New Zealand Maori U18 15-a-side camp, which is coming up later this month in Rotorua.”
She has also represented BoP in U16s and U18s sevens and a highlight was playing a touring Japanese side.
She also has a background in other sports, having played netball when young and more recently basketball, although this year her sole focus is on rugby. A recent school and age-grade representative basketball teammate has been Melika Samia who recently made the selection camp for the New Zealand Tall Ferns as the only school player to do so.
In the summer she used to do athletics in Waihi and plays touch “I play in whanau teams on Wednesday and Thursday nights, it is mostly social touch, but I used to play for Thames Valley touch up in Paeroa.”
As well as all the talented rugby players and sportspeople Payton regularly rubs shoulders with, another key influence on her is her father.
“Definitely my dad. He used to play rugby in Waihi and I have always looked up to him and he was a major reason why I started playing when I was young."
She also thanks her teachers at school for helping her get to where she is.
On the subject of school and the future, her obvious goal is to see how far her rugby career can go. “But on top that I may go to Toi Ohomai and look to do a sport and recreation course.
“And to work up to trying to make the Black Ferns team – that has been my goal for so many years.
In the meantime, a possible Farah Palmer Cup debut beckons for Payton.
The Volcanix open their season and the competition this Saturday afternoon against Auckland at Eden Park, followed by matches over the following several weeks against Counties Manukau (away), Waikato (home), Canterbury (away), Otago (home) and Wellington (home).
Interview and story by Steven White, for College Sport Media. July 2021. Photos by Rick Moran/BoP Rugby.
The city of Nelson is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated both the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. The British flag officer in the Royal Navy was renowned for his inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics. In the last dozen years of his life he functioned with one eye too.
Even the most one-eyed Nelson supporter would have surely flagged their prospects of retaining the Quadrangular title midway through the final against hosts Christ’s College.
Down 20-3, Nelson was cracked open three times, the same way. Assertive forward charges were followed by skip passes from pivot Jack Shearer to the flying wing of Jack Belcher who completed a first-half hat-trick. Christ’s were held up over the strip and denied from a narrow forward pass too.
Nelson’s only hint of promise was late in the first-half when they enjoyed prolonged possession.
Strategy and tactics for Nelson? Simple. Abort the kick and retain the ball even if that’s unconventional deep inside the 22. The leadership came from centre Ollie Inch and the seniors in the pack, most notably hooker Dylan Irvine and brutish flanker Netani Baleisomosomo.
It was a searing break by Irvine from 22 to 22 that super-charged the Nelson resurgence. A penalty and lineout maul stuffed the Christ’s pack and the score was 20-8.
The Nelson bench supplied additional punch with loose forward Joseph Domoni at the forefront. His gilding run created space and a try for Luc Waterman-Thomas. The sideline conversion to Cooper Grant shaved the deficit to 20-15.
Without fear of exaggeration Baleisomosomo might have handled 40 times throughout. His raw power and workrate was a sight to behold and when his blonde mop of hair was last to emerge from a pile of bodies it was 20-20 with 20 minutes left.
Christ’s, at last, pilfered a turnover but Shearer was off target with the penalty shot. However Nelson’s stray in discipline reopened the door for the hosts who soon took the lead with a lineout drive of their own.
Shearer plays with a maturity beyond his years and a cross kick to the right wing led to a dispute involving multiple hands and a denied Christ’s try. They had hit posts with an earlier conversion as well!
Those near misses would be punished by the visitors' military precision. A relentless barrage of “pick and goes” and “one-off the ruck” surges positioned Nelson near the Christ’s sticks.
Irvine-intervention! Dylan thrust ahead and muscled over with the last play of the game. The conversion was kicked by Grant and Nelson salvaged an improbable 27-25 triumph. Nelson have won the tournament 27 times and five times in the last seven years.
Whanganui Collegiate beat Wellington College 24-15 in the consolation final. Stafford Lithgow (2) and Henry Strang scored tries with three conversions and a penalty added by Shaun O'Leary. Stanley Solomon kicked an early penalty for Wellington who were otherwise chasing the game, despite tries from Sam Meo and Tofuka Paongo.
Whanganui failed to win a single quad match from 2007 to 2017. Under the guidance of Englishman Steve Simpson they have restored a flagging reputation. They are currently third in the Central North Island series with six victories in seven matches, and almost certainly guaranteed a semi-final place in a tourney that features perennially strong opposition like: Wesley College, Lindisfarne College, St Paul’s Collegiate, Feilding High School and St Peter’s Cambridge.
On day one Nelson College defeated Whanganui Collegiate 41-14 and the hosts edged Wellington College 28-23 in another genuine thriller.
Nelson and Whanganui started at a breakneck speed with three cracking tries scored in the first 10 minutes. Gradually the Nelson pack assumed control with productive lineout drives and an assertive scrum. The halftime score was 17-7. Nelson scored quickly after the break to make it 24-7 at which point Whanganui were unlikely winners, despite some daring and occasionally clinical back play.
It was perhaps ironic then lock Harvey Mayer and hooker Adam Beard were the source of Whanganui’s tries. O’Leary added two conversions and beside centre Waqa Waqaicece was constructive and dangerous.
Baleisomosomo was damaging and his try under the posts in the 37th minute was a rich reward. Irvine was busy and bustling, and crashed over from a maul. Grant ran a steady ship at ten and Inch had the last say.
It took an inspired period of 10 minutes for Christ’s College to overcome Wellington College 28-23. In a game of frequent lead changes, Wellington scored their third, and most spectacular, try with about 20 minutes remaining to nudge ahead 20-17.
Rampant wing Josh Williams barged down the left touchline to help the visitors wriggle out of their territory. The ball was then transferred right for No.8 Ashton Teau who chipped ahead. A chase ensured and hooker Michael Gordon gathered on the fly, outpacing a pack of retreating chasers.
Shearer then employed his boot with equally damaging effect, cross kicking for fullback Angus Hammett who gathered on the full, stumbled in an ankle tap a metre before the sideline, and fired inside to No.8 Hendrix ‘Voodoo Child’ Taylor who touched down.
Shearer added two further penalties to stretch Christ’s advantage to 28-20. Taylor spearheaded an imperious forward effort which suggested Wellington would wilt completely. However, Wellington rallied and a Stanley Solomon penalty sliced the deficit to five forcing Christ’s into tackle mode for the remainder of time.
With the support of a boisterous crowd, Christ’s started strongly and captain Johnny Lee opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Lee was briefly subdued when Wellington second-five Ben Gordon and Williams breached the defense out wide but the classy blindside showed his resolve with a second try as Christ’s lead was 15-12 at the interval.
A shout out to the gruff voiced Sideline commentator. All four matches were announced with boundless enthusiasm.
Quadrangular Tournament history:
Just prior to kick-off of the opening 2019 Top 4 girls semi-final between Onehunga High School (representing the Blues region) and Christchurch Girls’ High School (South Island) this humble correspondent asked a group of CGHS supporters who to look out for in their team.
“Our year 11 openside flanker,” they responded in unison, pointing to Jorja Miller in centre field waiting for the referee’s whistle to get the match underway.
By halftime, their punditry was justified. The openside was having a blinder, tearing into anything that moved on defence and creating numerous chances on attack. Her second half performance was just as ebullient as CGHS went on to win 57-7.
Meanwhile, over the trees on the main field at Massey, defending champions Hamilton Girls’ High School enjoyed a 50-7 win over hometown school Manukura.
How would Christchurch and their young openside fare against Hamilton’s superior power and size in the final? As it transpired, Hamilton won the final comfortably, dominating the physical exchanges and winning 58-17.
But once again, it was the performance of Jorja Miller that stood out. She picked up from where she left off and ripped into the opposition in a fearless display in a losing cause.
Jorja was College Sport Media’s Player of the 2019 Top 4, following on from Alena Saili (Southland Girls’ High School) in 2016, Dhys Faleafaga (St Mary’s College) in 2017 and Jazmin Hotham (Hamilton GHS) in 2018 – all in winning teams.
Fast-forward almost two years, and Jorja has recently been named as the only current school player in the Canterbury Women’s NPC squad for the upcoming Farah Palmer Cup national provincial competition.
She is coming off her first full season club rugby. “I have been playing all year so far for the High School Old Boys team. We lost our playoff for third and fourth last weekend against Canterbury University, but this year I have got to know many of the players now in the Canterbury squad.”
This past weekend, Jorja and the squad had an internal camp, ahead of pre-season matches against Otago and the Canterbury Development team.
“It was my goal to make the Canterbury team, but considering it was my first year playing senior rugby and being still at school I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready for it. But then having been selected it was awesome to get the phone call from the coach!”
The Christchurch Girls’ High School team are the seven-time Canterbury schoolgirls competition champions, and their season is well underway.
“Although we have only had a few games, the weather has been average, and some have been cancelled.”
The final is set down for 11 August, with the winner playing the Otago/Southland winner for the right to represent the South Island at the Top 4. The Top 4 tournament has also been pushed back a couple of weeks this year to later in September.
There was no Top 4 tournament last year because of Covid, but Jorja is one of several players returning from 2019.
She is the vice-captain of her school team this year, with first-five Mia Cochrane the captain.
Mia and loose forward Holly Wratt Groeneweg are in the Canterbury FPC Development team, while year 10 midfielder Kelera Qalivutu is an up-and-coming player to watch.
CGHS also has a second XV in 2021, filled with some exciting Year 9 and 10 talent. The school plans to enter an U15 team at the Condors 7s for the first time later in the year.
From South Canterbury and a student at Timaru Girls’ High School in years 9 and 10 before starting as a boarder at CGHS in year 11, Jorja has been playing rugby most of her life.
“I started when I was four. I was always playing rugby with my brothers in the backyard and my dad played rugby as well, so I grew up around the game and naturally started playing.”
She started off in the backs. “I always played halfback until U12s and then in a rep trial they needed someone to fill in at openside flanker and I ended up playing there and staying there.”
She also played for the Dutch-NZ U18 Women’s team in year 10 and toured overseas and played games in London, Paris and Amsterdam.
“Although I am not Dutch at all! I got invited to play for the team by a coach and joined the team that way.”
As well as 15s rugby, Jorja loves sevens and has found success in the shorter form of the game in recent years.
In fact, she was named in the Condor 7s tournament team two years running and was Player of the Tournament in 2019 when she helped CGHS win the title for the first time in the annual national schools tournament that is played in Auckland every December.
Jorja scored four tries in the final as CGHS beat Howick College 29-14 in the 2019 decider.
They were not able to match the feat in 2020. “We lost our semi-final to Manukura [19-24], which was pretty gutting, but I think looking back we could have worked harder and that would have got us up.”
She has also played in the World Schools 7s tournament in each of the past two years, for the Condor 7s Tournament Team, reaching the semi-finals in 2019 and winning in 2020. “We won last year but that was an internal Aotearoa tournament with no international teams because of Covid.”
This April she played in Wellington in New Zealand Rugby’s Takiwhitu Tūturu sevens weekend, which culminated in two games at Wellington Stadium either side of a Crusaders-Hurricanes Super Rugby game.
“I was part of the Black Ferns Sevens squad, and then we split into two even teams and played each other plus a Moana Pasifika team and a composite Black Ferns team. I really enjoyed that weekend and learnt a lot.”
What rugby format does she prefer?
“At the moment I prefer sevens, because it suits the way I play rugby better. More space, more opportunities to run with the ball. But this 15s season has been really fun so far and I am really enjoying that as well.”
Rugby is not her only sport.
“Highland Dancing is my other passion. I find the two sports complement each other and it helps my rugby. I compete in New Zealand competitions, which is once a year.”
In her last year of school, Jorja hopes to continue with rugby into the future.
“Hopefully, I can go down the Black Ferns Sevens pathways, but I am also thinking of doing health science and becoming a physio.”
Article and photos unless otherwise credited by Steven White, for College Sport Media.
Curtis Heaphy is a young sportsman of Maori ancestry from Palmerston North Boys’ High School who has excelled in both the First XI cricket and First XV rugby teams.
With a willingness to take a risk, composure under pressure, and notable successes in both codes he is inevitably drawn comparisons to Ruben Love, a New Zealand age group cricketer of Maori heritage from the same college who represented the Hurricanes in Super Rugby this season.
Two years apart, Heaphy and Love are good friends.
“He trains the house down but has stayed. His success inspires me," Heaphy said.
"I haven't chosen which sport I'm going to play after school yet. I am actually doing a couple of Uni papers because study is important. I want to keep my options open."
Mature judgement helped Heaphy earn selection as captain for the New Zealand Secondary Schools' Maori cricket team. Twice they've been beaten by the Governor General’s XI in an annual fixture but the appointment of Heaphy didn't hurt the cause.
In January he was the leading run scorer in the Super 8 tournament which Palmerston North won for the first time in a decade. Napier Boys’ High School won in 2012 and since then Hamilton Boys’ High School had won every year.
"That would be the highlight of my time at Palmerston North. The tournament was in Napier and we beat Hamilton Boys’ in pool play which basically knocked them out. We posted quite a big score and I made 99 which was a bit disappointing. I tried to hit another six and got caught by Payton Spencer, my good mate on the boundary.
“In the final we played Tauragua Boys.’ We bowled them out for 162 on a green wicket. It was a tricky chase, but we got it done.”
Palmerston North won by five wickets with Heaphy making 87 off 107 balls. He finished the tournament with 212 runs and has made centuries in local club fixtures and against St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.
Last winter Silverstream was the victim of Heaphy’s heroics on the rugby field. He kicked a sideline conversion in the dark, and on a bog, to help Palmerston North win the Old Boys Cup 13-12.
“We spent the whole second-half in their 22 and couldn’t score. It is pretty frustrating. I remember we put a cross-kick out to the winger who unfortunately didn’t manage to score on that occasion but luckily, he scored a little later when we took some risk to get it wide again.
“I do practice my kicking a lot and try not to kick it too hard. I have a process I go through and trust.
“My family is very supportive. I owe them everything.”
Heaphy has been a trusted member of the First XV since 2019. That was an exceptional season for Palmerston North. Third in Super 8 they reached the Hurricanes Regional final, losing to eventual National champions Hastings Boys’ High School.
“We had a big pack. I would rather play with them than against them. We beat Scots coming from 17-0 behind which was a big highlight. Ruben Love played awesome that day. Super 8 was really good because the only teams that beat us were Hamilton and Hastings who were in the National Top Four.”
Fifth in the 2020 Super 8 wasn’t the greatest result, but two matches were lost by less than a converted try and Hastings Boys’ High School overpowered 25-8.
Palmerston North have made a strong start to 2021 toppling quality opposition like: Francis Douglas Memorial College, Whanganui Collegiate School, Gisborne Boys’ High School, St Pats Town, Wellington, College, Lindisfarne College and Auckland Grammar School.
“I prefer first-five, where I’m playing this year. I like to get my hands on the ball and be involved, attacking and kicking when needed. We’ve got a lot of good players and I hope the experienced boys can lead by example and help us have a good season.
He has been a Hurricanes and Manawatu Under 16 representative.
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