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.
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