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.
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