Palmerston North Boys’ High School hosted Napier Boys’ High School in their annual full sports exchange. In the senior sports, the home school won the rubber 3-2 – including winning the famous Polson Banner First XV rugby match.
In the five major sports that were contested amongst the senior teams, Palmerston North BHS beat Napier BHS 27-15 in the First XV rugby, won the First XI Football 5-3 and the Senior golf 6.5 - 1.5. Napier won the First XI hockey 2-0 and also won the First V basketball 83-61. Palmerston North generally had the better of the junior match-ups – results at the bottom of this article.
In the first XV rugby, Palmerston North Boys’ High School won the Polson Banner for the first time since 2015. The win was Palmerston North’s 64th in the 115th edition of the Polson Banner.
In heavy underfoot conditions and weather that started off sunny but turned wet in the second half, Palmerston North played with patience on defence and extra adventure through their backs, with fullback Ruben Love a standout. They won four tries to three, to also register a bonus point win in the final Super 8 fixture of the year for both teams.
The home side out-scored the visitors three tries to one to lead 17-5 at halftime.
But it was Napier that made the more positive start, dominating early possession and bustling centre Jack Sheridan bursting through from 40 metres to score.
Palmerston North worked their way into the contest and in the 21st minute right wing Jayden Keelan returned a kick in play and set sail for the corner flag before passing inside to fullback Love to score their opening try.
In the 27th minute Keelan and Love attacked the shortside first phase from an attacking scrum near halfway, a raid that was brought down just short of the line. This soon led to their second try from a subsequent scrum close to the line through bulldozing prop Nasser Tato.
Just before the break, Napier missed touch with a clearing penalty and fullback Love ran the ball back up towards the 22. Palmerston North recycled quickly from the next ruck and halfback Matt Oldridge darted towards the corner and set up a try for second five-eighth Josh Ellingham.
Napier made a good fist of the opening exchanges of the second half, using their forwards to good effect up the middle and 10 minutes in were finally awarded with their second try to lively halfback Angus Kilmister after a lineout drive.
Palmerston North regrouped and after being held up moments before, popular replacement prop Darius Mafileo crashed over to score what was to be the match-winner. Love’s conversion made it 24-10.
With rain arriving, Napier responded with a forwards try to Reece Henderson after another series of pick and goes.
But that was as close as they got, Love sealing victory with a penalty on fulltime.
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: 46
Palmerston North BHS Biggest Win: 45-3, 1981, Won 51-10 in 2015.
Napier BHS Biggest Win: 43-14, 2002
Polson Banner last five matches:
2015: Palmerston North BHS 51 – Napier BHS 10
2016: Palmerston North BHS 17 – Napier BHS 17 (draw)
2017: Napier BHS 12 – Palmerston North BHS (10)
2018: Napier BHS 36 – Palmerston North BHS 19
2019: Palmerston North BHS 27 – Napier BHS 15
2019 Napier – Palmerston North sports exchange results included:
27-15 win to Palmerston North in First XV Rugby
45-12 PNBHS U14 Rugby
7-5 to Napier in Second XV Rugby
17-12 to Napier in Colts Rugby
19-12 to PNBHS in Third XV Rugby
10-1 to PNBHS Junior A Football
0-0 draw in Second XI Football
5-3 win to Palmerston North in First XI Football
21-0 win to Palmerston North in Colts Hockey
3-0 win to Palmerston North in 2nd XI Hockey
2-0 win to Napier in First XI Hockey
88-50 win to Palmerston North in Junior A Basketball
83-61 win to Napier in Premier A Basketball
Wins to Palmerston North in both Junior and Senior
Palmerston North 6.5 - 1.5
The Chiefs U18 Development squad to match up against the Crusaders and Blues Under 18 sides this Saturday, 13 July.
Team Messam will make the trip south to Blenheim to take on the Crusaders Under 18’s at Lansdowne Park. While Team Clarke will host the Blues Under 18’s at St Paul’s Collegiate. Both games will kick off at 12.30pm.
The teams are:
A curious thing happened when the Hurricanes Under-18 training squad was recently announced for their annual development camp in Napier.
Traditional powerhouses Wellington College and St Patrick’s College, Silverstream only had a single selection; Wellington loose forward Flynn Crampton.
Scots College haven’t won the Premiership since 2014, and accounted for eight of the 15 selections from the capital.
How can a school that has won just a solitary open weight title in the past four years (Scots second XV are the reigning Premier 4 champions) be so heavily represented in a major representative squad?
What’s going on in Wellington Secondary School rugby? Anecdotally, the standard of the First XV premiership is the worst it’s been. Numbers are falling in most grades and solutions for improvement aren’t necessarily straightforward.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is looking to implement a new governance structure for secondary school rugby (this year), to be followed by a new strategy (in 2020) to build player numbers.
Wellington provides a vivid insight into many of the challenges the game faces.
Rugby is decreasing in popularity. Since 2012, boys teams across Wellington have decreased by 18.3%, (minus 20 teams, or around minus 440 players). More alarmingly:
· Since 2012, open weight Premier teams have fallen by 19%, (minus 9 teams).
· Since 2012, non-Premier open weight age-grade teams have fallen by 47%, (minus 17 teams).
Tumbling numbers isn’t just a Wellington trend. Between 2013-2018, the number of teams in Auckland fell from 225 to 181. In North Harbour numbers are even more drastic, with a third of teams vanishing in the past five seasons.
Why are boys not playing rugby? The NZR Secondary Schools Rugby review identified several reasons, the most interesting of which are contained in a student feedback section and include:
The Wellington College First XV is suffering the worst run of results in its history. This season they are in grave danger of missing the top four of the Premiership for the first time.
In the past three years Wellington’s First XV have been the victims of record defeats against Hastings Boys’ High School, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, Scots College, Nelson College, Christ’s College, Feilding High School and Palmerston North Boys’ High School.
In the past five years Wellington has experienced embarrassing stumbles against Kapiti College, Hutt International Boys’ School and Wairarapa College.
Why should we be concerned? Wellington College is by some distance the capital's largest state boys school and therefore provides a vivid illustration of boys sporting preferences. Wellington has a national reputation for being traditionally powerful in rugby.
Wellington won the Premiership as recently as 2016, which might suggest Wellington is on a temporary rebuilding cycle. However, Wellington losing more games than it wins was almost unthinkable a few short years ago.
Despite having a relatively healthy 10 teams at present, closer inspection of the programme suggests a rapidly weakening First XV was only a matter of time.
Between 2010 and 2016, aside from the First XV, the only open weight title success was the Under-15A’s, which captured the Division I title in 2010.
Contrast that with St Pat’s Town who have won six open weight grades since 2014 and Silverstream, who have won a dozen.
Anecdotally, “small white boys from Khandallah and Kaori” are avoiding rugby like the plague and don’t have the size to compete at the heavier levels.
In 2018, Wellington enjoyed a very fruitful sporting year. Wellington are the national cricket, swimming and futsal champions; a staggering 576 boys play the latter code. Additionally, Wellington athletes won half a dozen medals at the National Track & Field Championships.
Rugby is no longer king at Col.
Non competitive Games
One of the arguments presented in favour of increasing the Premiership grade from eight teams to ten was to expose more players to the highest level and thus boost the standard and competitiveness of the competition. Despite honourable intentions, the opposite has proven true.
Between 2012 and 2016, just under half (84) of all Premiership fixtures were decided by 20 points or more.
Since expansion there have been 130 games of which 77 (59%) have been settled by 20 points or more. On top of that there have been two defaults and a century posted by St Pat’s Town.
This past weekend Kapti was beaten 106-3 by Silverstream in a nonsense of a contest in which Kapti left out half a dozen of their leading players, an acknowledgment they were beaten before they'd started. This Saturday, Hutt International Boys’ School will default their fixture against St Pat’s Town citing a “shortage of player numbers.”
Silverstream have won the Premiership the past two years by an average winning score of 53-7. When Silverstream won in 2012, their average winning score was 23-11. Granted Silverstream upset a formidable Wellington College outfit in the final, but even Wellington’s average winning score that year was only 26-7.
Unusually, between 2010-2015, the school which finished first in the round robin failed to win the Premiership.
The NZR Secondary Schools Rugby Review identified uncompetitive competitions as a major force for driving students away from the game. There were complaints being consistently beaten by large scores results in a loss of enjoyment and motivation.
The review also recommended NZR establishes a clear definition of which grades are considered performance grades, with all other grades recognised as existing primarily to maximise the appeal and benefit to participants.
The shape a ‘high performance’ grade would take is uncertain, but clearly the Wellington Premiership is drifting away from ‘high performance’ with so many one-sided games.
The Rise of Scots College
In 2009, Scots First XV lost to the Wellington College 2nd XV in the Premier II final. Five years later Scots were the National champions.
The only other team at the school to win a grade in that five year period was the 2nd XV who won the lowly Premier 5 grade in 2012 and Premier 4 the next season.
Since 2010, Scots have won a mere six College Sport Wellington grades.
How have Scots, with a small roll (slightly over 500) and little reputation for rugby, become such a force in the First XV Premiership?
The answer is simple: greater coaching resources and more rugby-playing students joining the school.
In 2014, eight players were on scholarship in the Scots starting XV that beat Silverstream 21-18 in the Premiership final.
Under current eligibility rules a First XV is allowed no more than five players that are “new to school.” A “new to school" tag is carried for two years, while internationals never shrug the title. Essentially, done methodically with enough planning and forethought, a third of your team can still be imported.
The best way to consistently build a powerful team with little strength below (Scots don’t even have an Under-15’s side) is to recruit by specific positions or attract top juniors and expose them to superior training while they effectively bide their time making the First XV.
There are, of course, benefits for some boys who gain scholarships, like receiving a better education and coaching. And universally chastising boys and their families for accepting scholarships is nothing more than petulant.
Perhaps the demands of a younger and more complex professional game necessitates programs like Scots. The expertise and resources to prepare players for the next level simply doesn't exist across multiple schools?
There is nothing in the present rules to prevent Scots or others (uninhibited from zoning laws, a whole separate issue) from constructing a First XV in an obviously top-down fashion.
However, having a side monopolise leading talent without any growth in the lower grades appears to harm the game. The NRZ Secondary Schools Rugby review identified scholarships as a factor in driving boys away from the sport.
Inexplicably Scots lost their points from a first round win against Rongotai College this season for erring in the number of “new school” players they had in the 22. This was a staggering oversight given Scots is coached by a paid Rugby Director whose a member of the Wellington Schools Secondary Schools Executive and New Zealand Schools coaching staff.
It’s interesting to note the tightening of eligibility rules in the 1A Auckland competition has had a noticeable impact on the competitiveness of the results.
In 2018, 62% of all games were decided by 20 points or more. After eight rounds this year that figure had dropped to 46%.
Ironically, Saint KentigernCollege, the target of much criticism for their flagrant poaching, suffered their first 20-plus point hiding in well over a decade when they were thumped 52-19 by King’s College, another school accused of overtly aggressive recruiting practices.
I changed "six" to "eight" here:
Nelson College held off waves of late Whanganui Collegiate attack on their own line to beat them 13-7 and win the 93rd Quadrangular Tournament in atrocious conditions at Wellington College this afternoon.
After scoring the only points of the second spell soon after halftime through second five-eighth Louis Carmine, and with wind and rain closing in, Nelson were forced into defensive mode for much of the rest of the game.
Whanganui, through their committed ball runners, led by No. 8 Semi Verdoese and bustling hooker Ben Strang, closed out the match hot on attack on Nelson’s line. There were at least four clear chances to score plus a charge-down of a clearing kick but all were repelled by Nelson whose unwavering defence held firm.
Earlier, it was Whanganui who scored the game’s first try after a break into the 22 and subsequent forwards momentum sending lock Hunter Morrison over the whitewash. Second five-eighth Te Atawhai Mason guided the conversion through with the wind and they led 7-3 late in the half.
Nelson created momentum and their forwards were held up over the line, forcing a 5-metre scrum, from which halfback Mason Lund made a dart and scored to put them up 8-7 at halftime.
Nelson won the tourney for the 26th time (five shared) overall and the third time in the past five years.
The last final to feature Nelson and Whanganui prior to today was in 1996 when Nelson also won 29-15. The last time Whanganui beat Nelson in a final was 33-9 in 1974.
The last time Whanganui won a final was in 1991, the year Ed Sheeran was born and Bryan Adams was top of the Billboard charts.
Home side Wellington College could count themselves unlucky not to beat Christ’s College in the playoff for third and fourth, which finished up as an 18-18 draw. Conditions were dry throughout the first-half of this match, but both sides struggled in the difficult crosswind and in the rain when it arrived at halftime.
Christ’s went ahead 5-0 early through a try to prop Liam Pratt, before both sides kicked a penalty to advance the score to 8-3.
About five minutes before halftime, Christ’s halfback Max Goulter scored a try from a 5-metre scrum to extend their lead to 15-3. But Wellington College scored a timely try in reply to blindside flanker Oscar Quin. The conversion made it 15-10 at the turnaround.
Wellington flyhalf Jacob Waikiri-Jones closed the gap to 15-13 with a penalty, as his forwards dug deeper and pushed Christ’s close several times. Christ’s gave away several penalties and eventually had a man sent to the sin-bin. In his absence, Wellington came up with what appeared to be the winning try to hooker Chris Bramley.
But Christ’s had one final raid up into opposition territory and second five-eighth Shun Miyake kicked a penalty to level it up to 18-18.
The last draw in the third-place playoff was in 2013 when Christ’s shared an 18-18 draw with Whanganui Collegiate. The last draw between Wellington and Christ’s was a 15-15 tie in the same fixture in 1996. Wellington have still never finished outright fourth in consecutive years at the Quad.
Day one (Monday) reports:
Whanganui Collegiate: 32 v Wellington College: 5
Whanganui Collegiate defeated Wellington College for the first time since 1996; earning their biggest win against the hosts since 1927 with a sometimes impressive, often dogged display.
Whanganui effectively won the game in the first ten minutes leaping to a 15-0 lead.
An early handling error by Wellington enabled Whanganui to enter the Wellington 22 and kick a penalty.
Whanganui No.8 Semi Vodosese proved explosive at times and a 60-meter burst by the Fijian was the catalyst for a try to bustling hooker Ben Strang.
Te Atawhai Mason produced a classy display. Not only was his goal kicking near faultless with five success from six attempts, but searing pace saw the Whanganui second-five score the visitors second try from a charge down and 40-meter pursuit.
Wellington enjoyed obvious superiority in the scrum, but a lack of pace and precision in the backline meant little reward materialised.
No.8 Flynn Crampton did close the gap to 15-5 at halftime, but Whanganui was successful in foiling most of Wellington’s attack, despite losing a player to the sin bin.
Wellington rejected a number of kickable penalties and were made to pay dearly midway through the second-half when Mason slipped his marker to complete a double.
Vodosese completed the scoring when he strode clear just before fulltime.
Lock Joseph Abernethy and captain Kenry Kilmster on the blindside were other standouts for Collegiate.
For Wellington, hooker Christopher Bramley was determined and reserve midfield back Apisaloma Tulua isn’t absent of size or ability.
Nelson College: 26 v Christ’s College: 14
In addition to qualifying for the final, Nelson College claimed maximum points in a Crusaders First XV competition fixture to go top of that competition.
Nelson never trailed on the scoreboard and that was fitting given the industry and excellence of their forwards.
In addition to scoring four tries, Nelson was held up over the line three times as they posed plenty of questions of the Christ’s defence.
Nelson’s initial breakthrough was made by lock Daniel Dixon who punched through a hole and drove 15-metres.
Nelson camped inside the Christ’s 22, but were unable to breach the reigning Quad champions defence.
Two minutes before halftime, Nelson captain Fergus Hughes crossed after supporting a break by wing Ben Faingaanuku at the halfway mark.
Disaster struck Nelson at the kickoff when a fumble was collected by Christ’s centre Will Greenslade who finished over the course of 25-metres.
Hughes was a constant threat for Nelson and a second converted try stretched the lead to 19-7.
Second-five Shun Miyake is the lynchpin of the Christ’s backline. In addition to an educated boot, he has deceptive speed and two steps and two dummies led to a brilliant solo try from past halfway to close the gap to 19-14.
Christ’s failure to build consistent forward pressure telling and when No.8 Taya Brown crashed through for Nelson’s fourth try, the contest was settled. Christ’s skipper Zach Gallagher can hold his head high in a beaten pack.
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