Otago Boys’ High School are a win away from their first appearance in the National Top Four First XV championship since 2015.
This Saturday, Otago heads north to tackle Christchurch Boys’ High School in the South Island regional final.
In 2014, Otago withdrew from the Otago schools grade to join the Premier Colts competition. Tougher opposition was the theory behind this decision, but after three seasons in the Colts, Otago re-joined their school contemporaries.
Otago’s captain in 2018 is openside flanker Jesse Vaafusuaga. He played in both grades and insists Otago have benefited from a return to college.
“It’s been a big change. In the colts grade the players are much bigger so we tended to spend a lot of time defending and exiting our 22. In the schools grade there are some big boys too, but we get more of the ball which encourages us to play a lot more which has helped us grow as a team,” Vaafusuaga (a Highlanders U18 camp selection) said.
Otago won the school Premiership, pipping John McGlashan College 24-17 in the final. Fullback James Arscott scored a try with the last play. Vaafusuaga captures the drama.
“With a minute to go we won a penalty on halfway and our first-five kicked it to the five-meter mark. We won the lineout and James dummied and got over. It was a real nail bitter and proof there are tough games in the schools grade.”
Southland Boys’ High School contest the Premier Colts grade and hadn’t lost to Otago in two years heading into the Highlanders Regional final on Saturday. They were held to a 14-14 draw (7-7 at halftime) when they met earlier this season.
How did Otago finally break the Southland drought?
“We knew Southland would bring it up front. There a big running team who like to go around the corner a lot. We knew if we could shut them down defensively, they would get frustrated. It was 5-0 at halftime and things opened up in the second-half.”
Otago won 26-7, with winger Michael Manson scoring two tries and first-five Tevita Asi crossing the chalk and playing with considerable authority.
Otago will have to bring authority to their defence this Saturday against Christchurch Boys’ High School. Vaafusuaga identified missed tackles as the biggest reason for Otago’s 26-23 loss in July.
“We scored a couple of tries in the first-half and were pretty confident at the break. Unfortunately that confidence was misplaced and we switched off mentally.
“We conceded three tries in 20 minutes and you can’t do that against a good side.,” Vaafusuaga rues.
If Otago reaches the top four they will face the best the North Island has to offer. Southland in their last two appearances lost Top 4 semi-finals by record scores. Is Vaafusuaga concerned Otago will struggle to compete?
“Not at all. There’s no question it’ll be tough, but you’ve got to back yourself and often the biggest upsets tend to happen in finals,” Vaafusuaga concluded.
Top 4 regional finals this weekend:
For more Otago secondary school rugby and secondary school sport photos visit Caswell Images HERE
The UC Championship final is the showpiece event in Crusaders First XV rugby. Here is the history of the final.
2001: Christchurch BHS: 29 v Christ’s College: 3
The first final was played at Jade Stadium. Christchurch led by 12-3 at halftime and completely dominated the match to win by 29-3. Tries were scored by George Naoupu (2), Kele Leatua, Andrew Olorenshaw and Tonga Mounga. The Christchurch Boys’ High School Magazine reported: “Seldom do things come together in a team sport like rugby as it did during this final.” Naoupu and Olorenshaw went onto play for Canterbury. Goal-kicker, Neil Broom, who added three conversions and a penalty, played cricket for New Zealand. Christchurch beat Christ’s three times in 2001.
2002 Christchurch BHS: 28 v Nelson College: 15
Played August 17th at Rugby Park. A dominant first half saw Christchurch lead 23-5 at halftime, scoring 16 points in the first 13 minutes. Nelson rallied in the second-half with two tries, but poor goal-kicking and errors ensured that Nelson was always chasing a superior Boys’ High outfit. Matt Holloway and Michael Saunders scored two tries each with Steven Brett (A Future NZ Maori Representative) kicking two penalties and a conversion. Sam Giddens(2) and Jayden Thompson scored Nelson’s tries. Andrew Olorenshaw was named Man of the Match for Christchurch who beat Nelson three times in 2002.
2003: Christchurch BHS 24 v Shirley BHS – 23
August 16, 2003 is a day that spectators at Rugby Park will never forget, a classic final! The first half was a low scoring affair with a Steven Brett converted try separating the two schools.The second-half was a thriller. Mitchell Alcock scored a try to extend Christchurch’s advantage to 12-3, before Shirley powered ahead 16-12.A memorable try by rampaging Number 8 Setaimata Sa and a drop goal by Cory Simpson were among the highlights of the Shirley rally. Christchurch was a champion team though and tires to Kieran Black and fifth former Tim Bateman put Christchurch back in front 24-16. Robbie Flynn scored a converted try on fulltime for Shirley. Kris McNicholl scored ten points for Shirley, gallant losers by a point.
2004: Christchurch BHS: 43 v Nelson College: 16
Christchurch, on the receiving end of a heavy penalty count, struggled in the early stages of the first-half. It took a series of powerful runs by Kieran Black and Mason Pomare to get the scoreboard moving, Christchurch led 19-11 at the break. In the second half, Christchurch was rampant and cruised to their 4th Press Cup title in a row, finishing with seven tries overall. Hoani Matenga (2), Reuben Fitzgerald (2), Kieran Black, Tim Bateman and Chris Small scored tries for the winners. Christchurch was unbeaten in 19 games and shared the National Top Four tittle with Wesley College in 2004.
2005: Christchurch BHS: 51 v Nelson College: 17
The 2005 final was played at Jade Stadium on August 20. Nelson started strongly but was denied by the Christchurch defence. Future All Black Colin Slade opened the scoring with a penalty and that seemed to settle Christchurch, who scored 32 points in a dazzling first-half to decide the contest; Christchurch winning by a record score. The winner’s tries were scored by Tim Jones (2), Matt Todd, Michael Coom, Ryan McLeod, Andrew Horrell and Colin Slade, who added four conversions and two penalties. Mason Pomare was invited to kick a conversion, and it brought up the half century. Nelson’s two tries were scored by James Marshall and Tyler McKinnion-Stevenson. Christchurch went 24-0 in 2005, successfully defending their National Top Four title.
2006: Christchurch BHS: 28 v Marlborough Boys’ College: 10
Christchurch travelled to Blenheim to tackle Marlborough Boys’ College who had upset the National Champions, 16-12 in the round-robin. A car buzzing around the Christchurch hotel playing loud music at 3am in the morning was not ideal preparation for the match. Christchurch started strongly however and led 18-3 at the interval. Strong defence Marlborough’s opportunities to score and a powerful wind helped Christchurch gain an advantage in the battle for territory. In the second half, Marlborough fought back and scored the first try. However, the result was settled midway through the second half when Matt Latham scored a 60-meter stunner which saw the ball being handled by most of the backs. Other Christchurch tries on the day went to Brendon MacFarlane (2), Marshall Suckling and Mark Jackman. Tyler Bleyendaal had a rare off day, contributing just a single penalty.Later Christchurch won their third National title in a row, going 22-1 for the season!
2007: Nelson College: 31 v St Bede’s College: 26
Played in Nelson, in front of an estimated crowd of 3000 spectators, Nelson surged to a 21-5 lead after just 15 minutes; Ricky Kennett, Sam Westerna and Mitchell Thwaties scored tries, all converted by James Lash. St Bede’s surged back to tie the game, 21-21 with 22 minutes left. St Bede’s tries were scored by Jason Morgan, Hamish Catherwood and Alex Ryan. Lash kicked a penalty to edge Nelson ahead before replacement winger Kim Bateman went over for the try that sealed Nelson victory. Nelson won 19 of 22 games in 2007, making the National Top Four for the only time in the school’s history.
2008: St Bede’s College: 34 v Marlborough BC: 14
Played at Rugby Park in Christchurch, Marlborough started strongly and led 9-0 via three Tyrone Elkington penalties. However St Bede’s with tries from James Schrader (2), Hamish Catherwood, Josh Navidi and Hiro Ono won easily in the end, despite holding just a one point halftime advantage. St Bede’s won their first Press Cup undefeated and won a record 28 games during the 2008 season, reaching the National Top Four for the first time since 1984.
2009: St Bede’s College: 32 v Nelson College: 6
The final was played at Rugby Park in Christchurch. St Bede’s won a comprehensive victory by 32-6 scoring five unanswered tries. Tyson Kamo collected two, Michael Stewart and Logan Taylor scored one each with Taylor adding three conversions and two penalties. St Bede’s won 18 games in a row on course to the National Top Four Final which they lost to Hamilton Boys’ High School, 0-17.
2010: St Bede’s College: 27 v Christchurch Boys’ High School: 12
The game burst into life during the second-half. An error ridden first spell saw St Bede’s, enjoy a narrow 3-0 advantage at the break. In the last 35 minutes five tries were scored as both sides played some expansive rugby. St Bede’s, who scored a record 826 points during the season, scored three times as they won a third Press Cup in a row. Tyron Davies and Zac Lilley scored tries while Zac Southen was a colossal figure, contributing a try, three conversions and two penalties. For Christchurch, Joe Taylor scored two tries and Martin Swart kicked a conversion.
2011: St Bede’s College: 30 v Nelson College: 12
St Bede’s College bullied their way to a fourth title by beating Nelson College 30-12. The larger St Bede’s forwards recycled the ball quickly, allowing their dangerous backs quick, go-forward ball. Jesse Bryant (2), Moses Faletolu and Misimoa Lamositele scored tries with Hagen Schulte kicking two conversions and two penalties. For Nelson College, openside Steve Soper was impressive and bullocking prop Connor McKinnin-Stevenson’s runs were well worth watching. Soper and Latham Jones scored tries for Nelson. St Bede’s went onto to make the National Top Four for a fourth time. They finished third equal.
2012 Christchurch BHS: 27 v St Bede’s College: 8
Christchurch Boys’ High School became Press Cup champions for the first time since 2006 Boys’ High dominated early territory and possession. They were on the board early via a Fletcher Smith penalty. St Bede’s eventually managed to build some phases and after Boys’ High infringed at a ruck, right under their posts, St Bede’s first five Tim Cossens had the scores level after ten minutes. Second five Anton Lienert-Brown was impressive, regularly breaking the first tackler. To St Bede’s credit their defence held strong until late in the first half.
From a rolling maul Boys’ High worked their way towards the try line which led to hard working lock Angus Cameron falling over the line to have his side heading into the break with a 10-3 advantage.St Bede’s came out firing early in the second half with Captain Misi Lamositele getting his side on the front foot with a great run up the middle of the field. A few phases later Number 8 Sione Lavemai worked his way over and at 10-8 it was now game on.
However reckless kicking and consistent mistakes from St Bede’s gave Boys’ High possession and they made the most of it when it was on offer. Fletcher Smith showed great speed from a scrum to score his side’s second try to make it 17-8, before a penalty extended the lead to 20-8.
Lienert-Brown showed his class near fulltime again when he broke a series of weak tackles to runaway 70 meters and score a stunning try, 27-8 the final score. St Bede’s only lost to Boys’ High in 2012. Christchurch went onto to lose the mainland final to Otago Boys’ High School.
2013: Marlborough BC: 15 v Nelson College: 11
The Press Cup came to Marlborough. After being beaten in the 2006 and 2008 finals, the Marlborough Boys’ College first XV made no mistake at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim downing Nelson College 15-11 in an enthralling final.
This battle wasn’t for the fainthearted. MBC, facing a howling southerly and driving rain in the first spell, kept the ball in hand, driving forward through their “big boppers” skipper Atu Moli, fellow prop Bevan Moody and number eight Sokepe Lopeti. When the ball was turned over Nelson, mainly through skipper Mitchell Hunt and halfback Reece Fuller, kicked long and tried to force a mistake.
After 12 minutes their tactics paid dividends when second five eighth Finn Hart-Strawbridge landed a penalty from a handy position.
But the home side responded immediately, setting up a series of pick and goes close to the Nelson line. Initially repelled, their patience was rewarded on the 26 minute mark when MBC first five TC Campbell sold a dummy and sprinted 20m on the angle for the first try which Mitchell Smith converted to the delight of a very vocal crowd of around 2000. Nelson replied with a second penalty to Hart-Strawbridge from the restart and the sides went the break with MBC ahead 7-6.
A Smith penalty from 27m in front after five minutes stretched MBC’s lead to four before Moli, my man of the match, capped a period of concerted pressure on the Nelson line with an unstoppable drive from two metres. The conversion was missed but MBC led 15-6 and had one hand on the trophy.
But Nelson were not done for. Through hard working front rowers Miro Mitchell and Brendan Asamua-Goodman they took the fight to the home side, mounting wave after wave of attack. Urged on by the crowd, MBC defended superbly, twice forcing knock-ons on the line. But eventually the pressure told when Fuller scored with 1 minute 50 seconds remaining. Nelson’s conversion was charged down, but the margin was back to four and the game was back on.
MBC made an error from the kickoff, a scrum on halfway offering Nelson a last roll of the dice. They attacked strongly, but a turnover saw their hopes shattered, MBC halfback Curtis Petersen-Line gleefully booting into the terraces. Perhaps fittingly, given the upheaval in the Press Cup pecking order, a earthquake aftershock rolled through the park as referee Dave Woodhouse signalled full time.
2014: Christchurch BHS: 27 v Nelson College: 13
Christchurch won all 16 games and scored 106 tries on their way to yet another title. Christchurch burst to a 19-3 lead, blindside Jacob Vincent was responsible for two tries. Nelson rallied and reduced the deficit to six. The outstanding Turoa Stephens was rewarded for his efforts with a try. Christchurch sealed the game when captain Sean Forster crashed over from a powerful rolling maul. Second-five Alex Nankivell was named Man of the Match. Christchurch won 18 out of 21 games during the season and attended the National Top Four for the sixth time.
2015: St. Bede’s College: 32 v Shirley BHS: 13
In a mostly tight tussle, there was no fairytale finish for Shirley Boys’ who were seeking their first ever Crusaders region 1st XV championship. Instead it was a polished St Bede’s, once again laying claim as the best school-boy rugby team in the Crusaders region.
In the first half both sides were finding their feet in front of a packed out Rugby Park, and along with some equally inconsistent goal kicking neither side could stretch any sort of lead. Going into the second half with a narrow 10-8 advantage, St Bede’s seemed to have their tails up.
But it was not until first five eighths Tiare Day-Jones stabbed through a perfectly weighted grubber kick for impressive fullback Zach McKay to latch onto and run under the posts that the game started to blow open. Shirley Boys’ didn’t take long to hit back though with standout prop Brody McAlister snaring his second for the match with a determined pick and go. With St Bede’s up 17-13, they went on a winning run with 15 unanswered points including McKay grabbing his second try.
2016: Christchurch BHS: 21 v Shirley BHS: 20
Shirley Boys’ High School returned to the final, but failed to break their title drought at a packed and sun drenched Rugby Park. Each side scored three tries, but goal kicking accuracy was the telling difference with Shirley missing a handy penalty shot with less than five minutes left.
Shirley second-five Logan Bell, celebrating his 50th match for the First XV, and Christchurch wing Atu Manu crossed the chalk twice for Christchurch BHS.
2017: Christchurch BHS: 18 v Timaru BHS: 10
Midway through the first half, Christchurch’s Tahu Kaa-Goodwillie scored after a chip from Rico Syme bounced awkwardly for fullback Hayden McNulty and the second five was on hand to collect the bonus, with Syme converting.
TBHS then closed the gap to 7-3 with a McNulty penalty.
With five minutes left in the first-half Syme put in another clever kick and it again bounced away from the defender and wing Jack Harris snapped it up to make it 12-3 at the break.
Syme extended the lead early in the second-half with a penalty that bounced off the upright but then missed another opportunity to extend the lead.
TBHS burst back into the game when open side Melvin Pauni drove over from a lineout and McNulty added the conversion to close the gap to 15-10.
A minute earlier CBHS replacement prop Murphy Kupe had been yellow carded when he deliberately interfered with the ball as a quick tap was being taken.
With 10 minutes left, the left footed Syme gave his side some breathing space when he landed a penalty to get the advantage out to eight points.
It was a tough final with the Timaru forwards really taking it to Boys’ High, but the defending champions proving their resolve.
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.
2021: Nelson College: 22 v Christ's College: 20
Down by 12 points at halftime, Nelson still trailed by three with five minutes left. They won a penalty midway in Christ's half and opted to kick for touch. The gamble paid off with winger Timoci Sauira going over in the corner after sustained forward pressure, to give Nelson its first lead.
The home team had started brightly in the spring sunshine before a Covid-limited crowd with the Sauira brothers fullback Nic and Timoci breaking the line repeatedly.
But the Christ’s defence held and on their first raid into the Nelson 22 they made it count with a try to right winger Sam Idiens.
It was Idiens popping up on the other flank who sparked the Christchurch visitor’s second try, with an inside ball for Jack Belcher to score.
Cooper Grant got Nelson on the board just before halftime, but Nic Shearer, whose booming boot gave Christ’s a wealth of excellent field position, slotted a penalty just before half-time to make it 15-3 at the break.
In an earlier annual Quadrangular tournament final Nelson had recovered a 20-3 halftime deficit to topple Christ’s.
Nelson has big, busy and disciplined forwards and a wealth of possession eventually saw brave Christ’s crack. Tries to formidable flanker Netani Baleisomodomo and Jayden Waharoa brought Nelson close before the late winning blow. Nelson captain and centre Ollie Inch observed.
“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.”
It’s a little over a fortnight until the New Zealand Barbarians National 1st XV Championships (Top 4) take place in Palmerston North. This weekend is a pivotal one in the race for those places, and we take a look at what’s left in each region.
There’s just four games left in the Blues region. The Boys section has Kaitaia College hosting North Harbour 1A joint-winners Westlake BHS in the preliminary match on Saturday, with the winner to then host Auckland champions St Peter’s College next weekend.
In the Coed Boys, Mount Albert Grammar School also head north on Saturday, but to face Kerikeri HS. The winner of that game will face the other North Harbour 1A joint-winner in Takapuna Grammar with the venue to be determined; if Kerikeri beat MAGS they’ll host, while a MAGS win will see it at Takapuna.
In the Girls, Aorere College have already booked their place at the Top 4 as the Blues representative.
Updated - late changes:
There’s almost a full slate of semi-finals to happen in the Chiefs region. In the Boys last year’s runners-up and Super 8 winners Hamilton BHS booked the Waikato place in beating a weary St Paul’s on Monday and they’ll head down to New Plymouth to take on NPBHS at the Gully. Wesley College hosts Rotorua BHS in the other match.
The Coed Boys has the local derby between defending National Champions St Peters, Cambridge and Cambridge HS this afternoon for the Waikato place, with the winner travelling down to the furthest reaches of the Chiefs area to play Hawera HS on Saturday. The opposite side of the draw has Manurewa hosting John Paul College, also on Saturday.
The Girls section has Hamilton GHS hosting Wesley College on Friday. The winner will play Rotorua GHS on a date to be determined next week.
The venues for next weekend’s finals will be determined on the results of this weekend.
The southern end of the North Island is broadly at a similar stage to the Chiefs. The Boys section there was sorted out last Sunday with St Pats Silverstream beating St Pats Town in the Wellington Premiership final, meaning that Silverstream will host last year’s National Champions Hastings BHS (who saw off a challenge from Palmerston North BHS on Saturday) with that game to be played at Porirua Park, and Super 8 runners-up Napier BHS to host St Pat’s Town, both on Saturday.
The Coed Boys have perennial contenders Feilding HS hosting this year’s Wellington winners Aotea College on Saturday, with the winner of that to face Wairarapa College next weekend for the Top 4 place. Both of these finals are currently scheduled for Palmerston North, but could change depending on results.
The Girls representative will be found this coming Saturday with Manukura – who beat Feilding HS in the Manawatu final – hosting defending National Champions St Mary’s College of Wellington.
Across Cook Strait the places in the Boys final will be decided this weekend. The final of the Crusaders-region UC Championship pits Christchurch BHS against rivals Christs College, with the winner of that match to host next week’s clash against the winner of the Otago BHS vs Southland BHS match in Dunedin.
In the Coed Boys Rangiora HS are already through to the final next weekend. They’ll travel to face the winner of Saturday’s Highlanders final in Oamaru between home side St Kevin’s and visitors Gore HS.
Finally – and like the Hurricanes region – the Girls representative will be found this weekend with 2016 winners Southland GHS taking on Christchurch GHS on neutral turf in Dunedin.
“I was in the ruck. When I looked up and saw that, I thought we’d lost,” Semisi Tapa from St Peter's College recalls of the dying stages of the 1A Auckland rugby final against King’s College on Saturday.
Down 28-29, Kings centre Lukas Halls busted down the left wing and kicked ahead into open space, leading the charge for the ball only to fumble five metres short of the line.
St Peter's had to clear from the defensive scrum to win the match.
“I was screaming ‘we need this,’ ‘we need this,’ Niko Jones told me to relax,” Tapa laughs.
Tapa’s intensity was a big reason for St Peter’s success. The powerful blindside flanker scored a try and made a series of rigourous runs and smashing tackles in a Player of the Match display. The St Peter’s start was dreamlike - ahead 17-3 after 20 minutes.
“I think that’s the best rugby we’ve played this season. We haven’t started well against the big teams so we wanted to change that on Saturday,” Tapa reveals.
“When we ran out on to Eden Park and saw how much support we had, that was pretty inspiring,” Tapa continues.
King’s rallied from their large initial deficit and claimed the lead early in the second-half. St Peter’s regrouped quickly and didn’t lose the lead for in the last 20 minutes.
“I was pretty nervous when King’s got ahead, but we had to relax and go back to our systems. King’s are a great team and we expected them to come back,” Tapa says.
The leadership of Niko Jones helped St Peter’s maintain cool heads.
“Niko is a good player and a great guy. He has the respect of all the boys and it’s pretty cool when his dad (Sir Michael Jones) helps out occasionally,” Tapa acclaims.
Dylan Mika and Peter Watt were two figures who helped St Peter’s rugby out considerably. The former was an All Black and Samoan flanker who attended St Peter’s and took an avid interest in affairs after leaving. Watt was a teacher and old boy at the college for 30 years and had a vast involvement in rugby. Both men passed this year and Tapa insists the contribution of both is never far from the thoughts of the team.
“We are very grateful for what Peter and Dylan did for the school. Dylan was especially close with Niko and Michael so it’s important we play for them, when we play.”
Tapa is determined to do his family proud every time he plays and one of the most enduring images for the final was of Tapa leaping into the stand to embrace his folks at fulltime.
“I felt so great. The crowd was going crazy and I just wanted to see my family. When I saw them I jumped up and forgot to worry about being injured,” Tapa laughs.
St Peter’s will play the winner of Westlake Boys’ High School and Kaitaia College in the Blues Regional final in two weeks’ time. The winner of the match will advance to the National Top Four.
St Peter’s won the National Top Four in 1987 and 2000.
Recapping the Auckland 1A rugby competition Grand Finals 1996-2017 below.
1996: Kelston BHS: 13 v St Kentigern College: 8
Prior to 1996, the 1A championship in Auckland was won by the team who topped the standings at the end of round robin play.
In 1996, St Kentigern College won the round robin and beat Kelston, who, because of the finals format, was allowed another crack at St Kent’s. Kelston coach Logan McPherson conceded in the Western Leader at the time:
“We’ve had a mixed bag during the year but we believed in them and they believed in themselves and they came through.”
Despite dominating possession and territory in the first half, Kelston was down 3-5 at halftime. In the second half a crucial try won Kelston the game. The Western Leader reported:
“The try came to halfback Kevin Senio from a well-rehearsed move from a scrum, involving slick handling from fellow loose forwards OkoSipu and Colin Jones.” Halo Tavana added a conversion and two penalties. Kelson went onto to win the National Top Four in 1996, Senio became an All Black.
1997: Otahuhu College: 22 v Kelston BHS: 21
Otahuhu started very well and two tries to winger Faivale Toailoa converted by Orene Ai’i saw them jump out to a 14-0 lead. Kelston Boys’ came back strongly and took the lead by scoring 21 unanswered points; Jonathan Meredith, Lua Lokotui (Tongan International) and Henry Lawson scored tries for Kelston.
In the previous game between the two schools, Otahuhu had problems with the highball so Ai’i switched between fullback and First-Five which presented Kelston with problems. A Donny Latu try closed the gap to 21-19.
With two minutes left Otahuhu coach Hogan Chapman recalls he relayed a message to Ai’i “have a crack now.” Ai’i received the ball 35 meters out and let rip with a sweet drop goal. Otahuhu was up 22-21 and managed to hang on for a famous victory.
1998: Kelston BHS: 58 v St. Kentigern College: 13
In 1998 Kelston cleaned up the Auckland competition. They beat King’s College by a record score, 55-5 and in the final met St. Kentigern College who they destroyed 58-13! Kelston scored nine tries against a strong side who won 17 of 20 games during the season. Kelston’s points scorers were: Ray Isara, 3, Mils Muliaina 2, Henry Lawson, James Brooks, Sam Tuitupou and Jeremy Eves tries; Logan Scanlon kicked 4 conversions and a penalty.
1999: Auckland GS: 12 v Kelston BHS: 8
The final was played in wet conditions at Western Springs. Kelston were overwhelming favourites having beaten Auckland Grammar earlier in the season and containing a side that featured future All Blacks, Sione Lauaki, Mose Tuialii and Sam Tuitupou. However Auckland Grammar had a secret weapon.
Future All Black and fifth former Benson Stanley. Making his first start for the First XV he made an immediate impact when he beat Sam Tuitupou and off loaded to flanker, Will Rowley who lost the ball in the act of scoring. Grammar was then awarded a penalty right in front of the posts and a quick tap resulted in a try wide out to Andrew Henry, the son of Sir Graham Henry.
The rest of the game was a real battle between two great packs and Kelston edged ahead 8-7. However from a line out Grammar went down the short side and prop Chad Slade (6 tests for Manu Samoa) ran 20 meters to score in the corner.
Note: The following week the two schools played off for the chance to advance to the National Top Four Finals. Kelston beat Grammar 27-10 with Ray Isara scoring two tries. At the Top Four, Isara kicked a last-minute penalty to win the final for Kelston against Christchurch Boys’ High School, 21-18.
2000: St Peter’s College: 17 v St. Kentigern College: 13
St Peter’s College was an outstanding team in 2000. They won 18 of 19 games, winning the National Top Four and Moascar Cup titles. In the 1A final at Eden Park, St Peter’s beat a determined St Kentigern College, 17-13.
St Kentigern got the ball rolling early with a try to Tim Lempriere, but St Peter’s, who had finished out of the top four in the past 10 years, replied with a penalty and a converted try to take the lead.
A St Kentigern penalty narrowed the gap, but St Peter’s had a 10-8 halftime lead. St Kentigern threw everything at the St Peter’s defence in the second half and when Eugene Beneke scored St Kentigern had a 13-10 lead. However St Peter’s No 8 Mace Poloie scored under the posts to finally subdue the St Kentigern challenge.
2001: St Kentigern College 9 v King’s College: 3
History was created on Saturday, August 20th 2001 when St Kentigern College won their first 1A Championship, defeating King’s College by just 9-3 at the Merton Road grounds. The wet conditions made for a tight game that saw the match won on penalties. St Kentigern held the lead after just three minutes, with the first of Josh Herron’s three penalties. They extended their advantage to 6-0 before King’s first-five Kenzo Pannell kicked a penalty in reply. A third penalty had St Kentigern ahead 9-3 at halftime, a score they defended for the entire second half, despite both teams going close to scoring.
Note: Three future All Blacks: Joe Rokocoko, John Afoa and Jerome Kaino helped St Kent’s on this day. The following season St Kent’s would be demoted to 1B. From 1996-2001, St Kent’s won 89 of 115 games, a great era for the school.
2002: Auckland GS: 26 v King’s College: 19
Earlier in the season, King’s had beaten Grammar, 18-17 after Jamie Helleur had missed a penalty in front of the posts which would have won Grammar the game. The two arch-rivals meet again in the 1A final and this time Grammar prevailed in an epic contest. Down 19-17 at halftime, the hero was Jamie Helleur whose goal kicking made the difference. Hellur kicked four penalties and two conversions of tries by flankers Tai Tuifua and Steven Roskruge, the latter after a break by Helleur, to win the Grammar the 1A title for the first time since 1999. The game was full of incident as David Leggat of the New Zealand Herald reported:
“When Jamie Helleur, tried to charge past Kings prop Jeremiah Fatialofa – son of the redoubtable Peter, of Auckland and Samoan front-row fame, and, like Dad, built like a small ship – he went down like he’d been shot… Both sides butchered gilt-edged try-scoring chances. Grammar wing Tony Woods spilled the ball forward as he dived for the line early in the second half. At the death, there was a scrum in front of the Grammar posts, and a drive to the line before King’s hands lost the ball forward.”
For King’s, halfback Kenzo Pannell kicked four penalties and converted lock, Ioane Tupou’s try. Eleven players in the game represented the Auckland Secondary Schools team. Jamie Helleur went onto play for Auckland.
2003 v De La Salle College: 32 v Kelston BHS: 12
De La Salle halfback Daniella Teutau produced the greatest individual performance by a player in a 1A final. He scored four tries and had a hand in a fifth as De La Salle won in a romp by 32-12. Speaking in the Manukau Courier at the time, Coach Nigel Hurst reflected:
“Captain and prop Lionel Krone played his best game in three years for the side. The loose-forward trio of Daniel Crichton, Semisi Safai and Tony Tuimauga also stood out. They provided the opportunities for Daniella to take over in the backs and he was simply outstanding.”
Kelston fullback Arthur Sionepulu kicked four penalties, his school’s only points. De La Salle went on to beat Wesley College and Whangarei Boys’ High School before losing to eventual National Champions, Rotorua Boys’ High School in a playoff game to reach the National Top Four.
2004: v Auckland GS: 15 v Mount Albert GS: 9
Played at Eden Park, in front of an estimated 7,000 spectators, Auckland Grammar School boasted a dominant team in 2004. They won 20 of 21 games and scored 115 tries. Ironically none were scored in the final. However with elusive attack and solid defence from both teams the game was a great spectacle. The goal-kicking of future Northland and Highlanders representative, Daniel Bowden was the difference. Bowden kicked five penalties, compared with Sione Kite’s three for Mount Albert, as Auckland Grammar celebrated their second championship in three years.
2005: King’s College: 33 v Kelston BHS: 28
For 50 minutes the 2005 1A final was hardly a contest. Kelston was all over King’s up by 28-9. Coach Brett Simmons recalls:
“In those first fifty minutes everything just every clicked. We had a pretty classy backline and they just run unopposed, catch and pass, not bully boy stuff, it was like a training run.”
However the game changed when Kelston, on attack, dropped the ball. Randall Kamea swooped, and ran the length of the field to score a try. Dean Cummins added the conversion and King’s were on their way. King’s Coach Jim Dickin:
“We told the boys at halftime that they could still win the game. We needed to better stick to our patterns though and get a break.”
Callum Cook dotted down for two tries, which were both converted and King’s hit the front by 30-28. A late long-range penalty by Cummins, who scored 18 points on the day, then stretched the lead to five points, ultimately a winning margin. King’s had reversed a nineteen point deficit in as many minutes to win a final. How was that possible, Jim Dickin?
“We had a really special group of boys that year, boys who had tremendous self-belief. The other thing we had was pace, and you can’t coach pace, and pace I believe was a big reason for our success, Kelston ran out of legs.”
Simmons: “Momentum in the modern game is everything, and it can change so quickly. When they scored their first try they were only down by 12 points and then they scored again from the kick-off, suddenly it was a very different game.”
For the first time since 1969, King’s were 1A champions. In 1969 King’s shared the title with St Paul’s College and Mount Albert Grammar School. King’s Old Collegian and All Black Ali Williams was at the game and joined the dressing room celebrations afterwards. Williams even presented his Auckland training kit to the man of the match Dean Cummins. For the first time since 1968 King’s were exclusive Auckland Champions. They went onto lose the National Top Four final to Christchurch Boys’ High School.
Note: Simmons says “It’s highly probable” that a comeback like King’s effort in 2005 could be repeated. This year Simmons coached the Massey premiers to the North Harbour Senior One championship. Massey was up 39-19, but conceded two quick tries, which Simmons admitted induced “2005 flashbacks.” Simmons insists however he would “change little” from that day.
2006: v Auckland GS: 16 v King’s College: 3
Played at Eden Park, Grammar came from behind to beat their traditional foes. Playing into the wind, Grammar trailed 0-3 at halftime after William Brittain had kicked a penalty for King’s. In the second half, Grammar dominated as the New Zealand Herald reported:
“Following a period of sustained pressure with Jack Turley and Shawn Stewart winning good lineout ball and Dan Pryor prominent in securing quick second-phase ball, man of the match Dave Thomas scored the only try. Ash Moeke added the extras and also kicked two penalties and a drop goal to complete the victory and allow captain (Future All Black) Winston Stanley to collect the coveted trophy from the defending champions.”
Auckland Grammar won 19 of 22 games in 2006. They contested the National Top Four final which they narrowly lost Christchurch Boys’ High School, despite leading by six points at halftime.
2007: Mount Albert GS: 27 v De La Salle College: 18
The 2007 final was a bruising contest with several lead changes. Kelekolio Hifo kicked a penalty to give De La Salle the early lead. MAGS hit back with a Ropate Rinakama try to take a narrow lead. A second try, from wing Ray Laulala (which also went unconverted), put MAGS even further ahead. A second penalty closed the gap, before a try to Karl Savelio and a conversion by Hifo put De La Salle 13-10 ahead at halftime.
Carl Perry levelled the scores for MAGS with the first penalty of the second-half, before a fine charge by Tutu Tairea created a try for Perry, whose conversion pushed MAGS 20-13 ahead. De La Salle responded with a try to Murphy Leilua to close the gap to 20-18.
However MAGS won a succession of close-range penalties and eventually put man of the match Sean Fletcher over for a try which Dominic Stead (who had replaced the injured Perry) converted for a final 27-18 margin. MAGS went onto to lose the National Top Four Final to Gisborne Boys’ High School.
2008: De La Salle College: 33 v King’s College: 15
An outstanding individual display won De La Salle the game. Winger Karl Savelio scored a hat-trick of tries to guide his side to a 33-15 win. Kelekolio Hifo was a dominant figure as well, scoring a try and contributing 13 points. De La Salle was never seriously threatened by King’s and easily won the Blues section to qualify for the National Top Four where they drew the final 6-6 with Hamilton Boys’ High School.
2009: Mount Albert GS: 45 v Auckland GS: 11
Close to 7,000 poured into Eden Park to watch the 2009 1A final which was the subject of an explosive build-up. A vile brawl in the semi-final between Auckland Grammar and Kelston led to the suspension of five front-line Grammar players. MAGS were at full strength, but were stunned early when Ali Hitchcock pounced on a charge-down to score an early try. It did not take long for MAGS to reply when Scott Malolua darted over from a ruck after 12 minutes. Momentum swung the way of MAGS and two tries to Gafatasi Su’a and Matt McGahan catapulted MAGS into a 17-5 lead. Auckland Grammar kept in touch with two penalties, but an Albert Nikoro penalty just before half-time made it 20-11 at the break.
The second-half was all MAGS as the effects of missing key players started to tell on Auckland Grammar. McGahan and Nikoro both kicked penalty goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half so that MAGS led 26-11. In the last 15 minutes of the game MAGS went on the rampage. Damon Niko scored a fantastic try that was converted by Matt McGahan. He also had a try disallowed as he brushed the touchline in the action of scoring. With five minutes to go Damon Niko scored another try as he powered through the AGS defence and found the tryline, after an initial barging run from Kane-Paul Smith. Just on fulltime, Steven Luatua (All Black) scored a deserved try that was converted by Albert Nikoro to make the final score 45-11 in favour of MAGS.
2010: Mount Albert GS: 18 v King’s College: 6
MAGS were the warm favourites to win the 2010 final after going through the round-robin unbeaten and scoring a four try bonus point in every game. MAGS are the only school in 1A history to score a four try bonus point in every round robin game, since the introduction of bonus points in 1996.
King’s College did well to shut down most of MAGS attacks and the game turned into a tight forward struggle. MAGS still found a way to win through with Damon Niko and Albert Nikoro scoring the only tries of the game. Matt McGahan kicked two penalties and a conversion. For King’s, Simon Hickey kicked two penalties. MAGS finished the season with a prefect 17-0 record, winning the National Top Four and Moascar Cup trophies.
2011: St Kentigern College: 38 v Kelston BHS: 17
St Kentigern claimed their second 1A championship – and their first in 10 years – with a convincing 38-17 win over Kelston Boys’ High School in a rousing final at Pakuranga’s Bell Park.
St Kentigern started strongly and hit the front after 10 minutes when JJ Taulagi crossed for the opening try. A second converted try, scored soon after by James Raea, took St Kentigern to a 14-0 lead which was reduced to 14-6 by halftime as Chris Neri landed two penalties.
St Kentigern continued their domination in the second half with tries to Tj Faiane, So'otala Fa’aso’o and Setareki Tamanivalu.
Mariu Grace converted all five tries and kicked a penalty. Neri added another two penalties and converted Taylor Adams try for Kelston. St Kentigern went onto to win the National co-ed title, and 20 of 22 games for the season. Kelston won the National Top Four, after St Kent’s unsuccessful appeal to join the boys event.
2012: St Kentigern College: 22 v Auckland GS: 7
The final was played at Eden Park and despite leading by just three points at halftime; St Kent’s was always the superior team. They won the ruck and maul count by 84-43, as their heavier pack eventually wore down an inaccurate Grammar. The highlight of the game was a storming break made by Blake Gibson, early in the second-half, which led to a Broc Hooper try. Other scores for St Kent’s were Sione Mafielo, Dillon Wihongi. Hopper kicked two conversions and a penalty. William Cosgriff scored a try for Auckland Grammar, converted by Shaun Stevenson. St Kentigern became national champions with a prefect 20-0 record. At the end of 2012 they had won 28 games in a row.
2013: St Kentigern College: 13 v Auckland GS: 11
Down by one point, with two minutes to go, St Kentigern College’s unbeaten-streak of 49 games was hanging on tenterhooks. Deprived of territory for most of the second-half, St Kent’s had a rare venture inside the Grammar 22 and the chance to win the game.
However First-Five, William Raea fumbled the ball and Grammar was able to clear. Fullback Shaun Stevenson belted the ball 40 meters, but that allowed St Kent’s the space for a quick lineout throw. Over eager Grammar defence then resulted in a penalty, about 10 metres in from touch 40 metres out from goal. Rea stepped forward, in referee’s time, with the chance for redemption. To a chorus of Grammar chair-thumping, Raea stroked the ball towards the posts. The ball initially on target, wobbled and dipped, but just scrambled over the bar, St Kentigern College winners of 1A for a third year in a row, 13-11.
Earlier there was little indication that the game would be subject to such a dramatic finish. St Kentigern dominated field position and possession and should have led by much more than 10-3 at halftime. St Kentigern predictably used their bigger forwards to make ground in tight, before involving Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu. Vunivalu broke the line at will, but scrambling defence by Grammar prevented greater damage. The first try of the final was scored by St Kent’s fullback Patrick Hebert after relentless attack eventually paid. Captain Blake Gibson was powerful with ball in hand, and he too went close, when in the thirty second minute he was thrown into touch just a meter short of the corner flag.
Grammar was a renewed team after the break. A smarter kicking game and more urgency and aggression at the breakdown led to a plethora of ball for Grammar.
Captain and blindside Harry Fitzsimons was inspirational. Halfback SuelakiTiatia and second-five Keenan Masina were lively too as Grammar built pressure and eventually scored from an overlap, 15 meters out, Masina the scorer.
Stevenson missed the conversion and a simple penalty a short time later, but gave his team the lead with about 15 minutes to go with a 35 meter penalty. The game became an arm-wrestle for the last ten minutes, as both teams belted each other at the breakdown. St Kent’s second-five TJ Faiane became a key figure with his ability to turn the ball over on the ground. Somehow, some way, St Kent’s found a way to win a again with a kick of a lifetime by Raea.
2014: Auckland Grammar School: 31 v St. Kentigern College: 26
Played in front of more than 10,000 people at Western Springs, Auckland Grammar ended their title drought with a thrilling victory.
The turning point of the match was midway through the second-half when Grammar was leading 21-16. First-five Wiseguy Faiane broke down the left wing and was taken out by a no-arms tackle before he lunged to score. A penalty try was given and Grammar never lost the lead.
Faiane was on target all day. He kicked four penalties and two conversions, including a sideline conversion of bruising winger Loketi Manu’s effort.
NZ Schools halfback Sam Nock scored twice for St. Kent’s. The captain was outstanding as was winger Wesley Tameifuna who had the last say.
2015: St. Kentigern College: 17 v Auckland Grammar School: 15
The fourth final in a row between these two schools and once again it was a nail biter. Auckland Grammar held a slim 8-7 halftime, but lost after first-five Wiseguy Faiane missed a 45-metre penalty attempt on full-time.
Auckland Grammar was the better team for much of the second half and three St Kentigern backs suffered bad injuries including prolific left wing Salimoni Tukania who damaged his knee. St Kentigern No 10 Carlos Price slotted three decisive goals from three, after outstanding fullback Etene Nanai scored within the opening 90 seconds. Prop Sesimani Tupou also scored in his fifth straight 1A final. Auckland Grammar had the lead for 20 minutes after tries to halfback Melino Fineanganofo and wing Sean Cassidy.
St Kent’s won 18 out 20 games for the season and went onto finish third at the National Top 4
Tukania, captain Dalton Papali'i, Braydon Ennor, Jerry Samania, Tanielu Tele'a, and Wesley Tameifuna were rewarded with inclusion in the Blues under-18 squad.
St Kentigern will now turn their attention to qualifying as the Blues representatives for the national first XV tournament, a competition they last won in 2012.
2016: Mount Albert GS: 15 v Sacred Heart College: 13
Mount Albert Grammar School: 15 (Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa, Isaiah Papalii tries; Niven Longopoa 1 con, 1 pen) Sacred Heart College: 13 (Melino Huihui’Uia try; George Witana 1 pen, Ben Engels 1 con, 1 pen)
Mount Albert Grammar School won their 23rd 1A Auckland title, edging Sacred Heart College 15-13 in a torrid and tense decider at Eden Park.
Sacred Heart's title drought is extended to 52 years, but they almost produced a miracle play to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In the last minute MAGS big pack cradled the ball in tight and cautiously advanced inside the Sacred Heart 22. A fumble was made by MAGS and Sacred Heart slung it wide.
Reserve Terry Ponga dashed 60-metres and was caught 15-metres shy of the MAGS goal line. Despite being isolated, Ponga recycled cleanly, and Sacred Heart stretched to the opposite touchline. Prop Fatongia Paea charged to within five-meters of the line, drawing in two defenders. He attempted to offload to the unmarked winger, but the ball squirted forward. MAGS won the defensive scrum and kicked the ball out to terminate time.
As a spectacle it was a match with few genuinely exciting moments. MAGS played a very direct forwards orientated game, but tough defense by Sacred Heart and basic handling errors often hampered MAGS momentum.
It took 20 minutes for the first points to be scored. A penalty goal was kicked by Sacred Heart First-Five George Witana after a 20-metre burst by sprightly halfback Taufa Funaki.
Two line breaks by slippery MAGS fullback Niven Longopoa resulted in no profit, but a bustling run by halfback Salyn Tonu'u moments before halftime sent Sacred Heart into retreat. MAGS scored the first try when lock and Captain Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa broke two tackles and stretched out.
Down 7-3, Sacred Heart enjoyed their best period of the match immediately after the break. Hooker Joseph Casey rumbled into the MAGS 22 and quick hands down the short side saw winger Melino Huihui’Uia cross unopposed. Fullback Ben Engels converted from near the sideline and it was 10-7 to Sacred Heart.
From the kick-off Sacred Heart blindside Iosefo Masoe made a storming 50-metre run and Engels doubled Sacred Heart's advantage with a successful penalty kick.
Cheekily Longopoa dribbled the ball just over the ten-metre line and reclaimed possession as Sacred Heart was stationed for a deep restart. A penalty was conceded at the ruck and Longopoa made it 13-10.
MAGS mauling from lineouts was outstanding. They frequently shoved Sacred Heart 20-metres backwards and the maul was the source of the winning try. Initially openside Isaiah Papalii broke and chipped ahead towards the Sacred Heart goal line. Sacred Heart managed to clear to the 22, but MAGS pushed hard again and Papalii barged his way over with about ten minutes to go.
MAGS controlled territory and often forced Sacred Heart to kick. MAGS win wasn't pretty, but it was brutally effective. Props Robert Cobb and Michael Palmer enjoyed top games, Papalii became very influential and Tonu'u controlled things nicely, often causing trouble when he ran.
For Sacred Heart openside Jack McHugh enhanced his growing reputation, No.8 Hoskins Sotutu had some vibrant moments, second-five AJ Kepaoa was rock solid on defense and Witana used what little ball he had effectively.
MAGS will play the winner of Westlake BHS v Whangarei BHS for a place in the National Top Four. MAGS have won the top four twice in 1982 and 2010.
2017: St Kent's: 26 v Sacred Heart: 19
St Kentigern College won the 1A Auckland title for the fifth time in seven seasons after overturning a 19-6 halftime deficit to beat Sacred Heart College 26-19 at Eden Park.
For Sacred Heart it was another heart-breaking second placed finish in their long history of near successes. Their 1A title drought now extends to a 53rd season.
With four minutes remaining Sacred Heart was down by seven and manfully constructed 15 phases and powered into the St Kents 22. A penalty resulted in a five-meter lineout, but a fumble a short while later allowed St Kents the chance to run down the clock.
Despite smothering defence by the Catholics, forcing St. Kent’s back to within a meter of their own try line, the blue and white hoops preserved the ball for 11 phases and terminated the clock.
With the assistance of a stiff north easterly, Sacred Heart enjoyed 75% of possession and 69% of territory in the first-spell.
Second-five Chay Fihaki chipped over three penalties in response to a Rivez Reihana goal and Sacred Heart led 9-3.
In the 19th minute St Kent’s fullback Etene Nanai was yellow carded and Sacred Heart was able to breach the defense when impressive prop Fatongia Paea offloaded basketball style to first-five Josh Jacomb who beat the cover defence to the corner.
Reihana kicked his second penalty to make it 14-6, but in the 32nd minute Paea barged over from a rapidly moving maul to make it 19-6 at the interval.
St Kent’s immediately lifted their intensity after the break and openside Mitchell Gibson scored a try in the 37th minute. Reihana put Lui Scholtens in a hole with a bullet pass and the centre kept his cool with a nice pass despite appearing to drift too quickly towards touch.
Sacred Heart lost their captain Lemeki Namoa to a yellow card in the 40th minute and would concede two tries.
In the 41st minute Scholtens juggled and grasped a high pass from second-five Dakohta Taimani to touch down in the corner to close the gap to 19-16.
In the 47th minute St Kent’s gained a lead they never lost when Reihana cross-kicked for wing Benji Pauga who beat two defenders and sprinted 60-metres to complete a classic.
St Mary’s College won their third consecutive Wellington Schoolgirls title at Jerry Collins Stadium on Wednesday night, beating Porirua College 44-15.
Photo credit (right): Wareham Sports Media. More photos here
Video highlights below:
The run of play was much closer than the scoreline suggests, with Porirua College competing for long periods and contributing to a hard-fought physical final.
The final was a 10-a-side match, owing to Porirua College not having enough players to field a full team.
In fact, the lack of numbers was a key factor in the result. Porirua started with just 13 players and they would lose a player to injury midway through the first half reducing their bench to two. St Mary’s started with 19 and employed all their players to good effect.
St Mary’s scored two runaway tries to open their scoring, on their way to a 22-5 halftime lead.
Porirua scored their first half try to halfback Shadal Tamatoa-Clarke, while left wing Faafounia Afamasaga would score two more. Porirua closed to 22-10 just after halftime, but St Mary’s scored another three consecutive tries to pull clear.
On 25 August St Mary’s play the winner of the Feilding High School versus Manukura match that is being played this Saturday. The winner of that will represent the Hurricanes region at the National Top 4 tournament on 7 and 9 September.
Demante Murray admits he was petrified prior to his penalty kick to win the Super 8 final for Hamilton Boys’ High School against Napier Boys’ High School on Saturday.
A shot straight in front of the posts 22-metres out is typically routine for a kicker of his stature, but Murray concedes he tightened up.
“Our kicking coach Mita Graham brought out the tee as it was the only option. I told him I was real nervous and had doubts about the kick. He told me to just ‘let it happen.’”
Murray drilled the ball down the middle and Hamilton won the Super 8 for the 11th time improving their overall record in the competition to 104 wins in 145 games.
Of all those victories, number 104 might have been the toughest. Hamilton was down 5-17 at halftime and deprived of 80 percent of the ball.
“Our coaches told us at halftime it was now a dogfight. We had to grind it out defensively and if we could hold out our chances would come,” Murray reveals.
Ten minutes after the resumption, Hamilton had claimed the lead with a near length of the field try. Murray captures the moment.
“That was a set move. Instead of exiting the 22 which Napier expected, Carlos (Karaitiana) fired a miss pass to our fullback who put our Fijian in space. Lewini is a real flyer and it was an awesome try.”
Hamilton won the final 23-22.
Napier wrestled back the lead forcing Hamilton to empty the tank. The school’s famous fitness programme does reap dividends.
“The toughest trainings are on Friday afternoon before the season starts. You have to earn your weekend by track running, pyramids and other hard things,” Murray divulged.
Personally it’s been a tough season for the first-five. In the first Super 8 fixture against Tauranga Boys’ College he broke a cheekbone attempting a tackle. The Super 8 final was only his third game back from injury.
“I couldn’t eat solids for a week. UP&GO was my breakfast, lunch and tea every day. I lost a couple of kilos,” Murray complains.
Murray originally hails from Piopio in the King Country. His parents shifted to Hamilton two years ago, but still commute often to Te Kuiti where they have employment in the Meatworks. Demante is a New Zealand U16 touch representative.
Including the final, Hamilton won all eight matches, scoring 225 points and conceding 113.
Hamilton Boys’ High School’s road to the Super 8 title
Beat New Plymouth Boys’ High School 26-7
Beat Palmerston North Boys’High School 28-25
Beat Rotorua Boys’ High School 28-27
Beat Napier Boys’High School 29-15 (1)
Beat Tauranga Boys’ College 39-0
Beat Gisborne Boys’ High School 26-17
Beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 36-19
Beat Napier Boys’ High School 23-22 (2)
“Everybody had a man of the match performance,” acclaims Anthony Tavendale when reflecting on Rangiora High School’s 35-33 upset of Christchurch Boys’ High School in the UC Championship on Saturday.
To suggest Christchurch hardly loses in the local competition is an understatement.
Christchurch suffered defeat for just the fifth time in five seasons - halting a 21-game unbeaten streak stretching back to May, 2017. Rangiora had never claimed the Boys’ High scalp before.
Perhaps the first indication something unusual might happen was in the first 10 minutes when after a long period on defence Caleb Beck intercepted a wayward CHBS pass and ran 60-metres before linking with Jack Marshall who scored wide out in the right corner.
Tavendale believes it was a fortunate try, but refutes the claim Christchurch were suffering a Moascar Cup hangover. Christchurch beat Nelson College 22-12 to claim that prize seven days earlier.
“We’ve been working hard on a game plan all year that involves everyone having a leadership role. We’ve got a balanced team and we genuinely surprised them with how we took it to them,” Tavendale says.
Christchurch would score the next two tries to jump ahead 12-5, but it was Rangiora who went to the halftime break with palpable momentum.
A strong carry by Tavendale in midfield followed by a Jack Marshall conversion leveled the scores and then prop Henry Leef touched down - using his bulk to drive over the line from close range.
“We believed at halftime we were a chance. I think they were surprised by how well we were playing. The first 10 minutes of the second-half was a real test,” Tavendale reflects.
Rangiora managed to kick a penalty to make it 22-12, but a third CBHS try closed the gap to 22-19. What happened next was extraordinary.
Rangiora missed a penalty attempt, the ball bouncing off the upright. Instead of the ball going dead, it pulled up before the dead ball line and stayed in the field of play where Blake Walesby following up scored a try to make it 29-19 with 15 minutes to play.
Predictably Christchurch rallied and reclaimed the lead 33-29. However the Rangiora forwards refused to yield and a Marshall penalty made it 33-32 with five minutes left.
Jermaine Pepe was awarded player of the day for an outstanding performance on the left wing, but it was the industry of Tom Lindsay, Angus Fletcher and Josh Neilson that enabled Marshall the chance to win the game on fulltime. A penalty on the edge 25-meters out was kicked to win Rangiora the Trustbank Cup (the South Island schools version of the Ranfurly Shield) for the first time.
Rangiora has won eight out of 12 matches in the UC Championship and are now inside the Top Four with Roncalli to play on the road this Saturday. Roncali have a solitary victory this season and have conceded 575 points.
Nelson College are a point behind Rangiora and today lost 33-7 to Christ' s College in their catch up game. Crucially Rangiora beat Nelson 16-15 in Round 4 of the competition.
In 2016, Rangiora won four games in the UC Championship. In the past two seasons they have won 16 games.
Lachie James, George Prain, Angus Fletcher, Jordan Haywood and Jermaine Pepe were selected in the Crusaders Knight’s Under-18 camp. Rangiora have been coached for the last three years by Glen Dunseath, Craig Mullen and Greg Lewis with regular support from Crusaders manager Shane Fletcher.
Napier Boys’ High School beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 9-7 in today’s annual full sports exchange in Napier, including winning the famous Polson Banner First XV rugby match 36-19.
It was a successful day for Napier, also winning the First XI football 5-4, First V basketball 102-98 and the First XI hockey 2-1.
In the 114th playing of the Polson Banner, Napier Boys’ High School prevailed over Palmerston North and will contest the Super 8 final for the first time.
Napier only required a win in their last round robin match to confirm a meeting with Hamilton Boys’ High School in the Super 8 decider on August 11. But they did it comfortably.
Napier essentially sealed that outcome in the first 20 minutes - scoring three tries and charging ahead 19-0 on the back of a dominant forward display.
Napier made a clinical start compiling a dozen phases and crossing the chalk after two minutes. Prop Patrick Teddy was the finisher.
Will Treder almost responded in spectacular fashion for the visitors, breaking down the right wing and failing to grasp his own chip kick.
Napier regained control and hooker Tyrone Thompson bustled over for the first of his two tries.
Thompson was named Player of the Match for his imperious carrying and staunch defence.
Twin brother and centre Leo Thompson showed he could be equally menacing, busting from 22 to 22 and allowing openside Sam Henderson to cross out wide.
The halftime score was 26-0 to Napier. Henry Williams secured the four-try bonus points.
Too their credit, Palmerston North won the second-half 19-10. It was an error ridden spectacle with Napier lacking their prior polish and Palmerston North, despite a lack of size, fighting gamely.
Jayden Keelan scored the tourists first try and Mitch Leach and Trevor Shane-Baker each profited in the last five minutes.
Napier first-five Henry Williams had a strong game and darted through for a deserved try.
This was Napier’s biggest win since a 31-10 triumph in 2003. Palmerston North have enjoyed 63 wins overall, today was Napier’s 46th.
Napier last won the Super 8 rugby crown in 2003. The final started in 2014.
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.
Last year Napier won the Polson Banner 12-10 – but Palmerston North first five-eighth Stewart Cruden missed a penalty at the death for the home school that would have snatched victory. In 2016 it ended as a 17-17 draw.
Napier – Palmerston North sports exchange results included:
76-63 to Napier Junior Basketball
10-1 to PNBHS Junior Colts Hockey
2-0 to PNBHS 2nd XI Hockey
35-31 to Napier U14 Rugby
14-13 to PNBHS 2nd XV Rugby
19-15 to Napier U15 Rugby
54-14 to Napier 3rd Rugby
2-1 to Napier 1st XI Hockey
4-2 to PNBHS Junior A Football
1-0 to Napier 2nd XI Football
102-98 to Napier Senior A Basketball
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