The article below was first published on College Sport Wellington in early August 2023.
When the Hutt International Boys' School (HIBS) First XV rugby team had a goal setting session on an Australian pre-season tour in Cairns in March many players in the squad were doubtful reaching the Premiership was a realistic goal.
Essentially the entire backline from 2022 had departed and a lack of size in the forwards was a major concern.
On Saturday HIBS qualified for the Premiership semi-finals for the first time in their history. A bonus point in a 12-14 loss to St Pat’s Town was enough to secure fourth place with a 5-4 winning record.
HIBS went within a whisker of toppling Town. Ahead 12-0, they conceded two converted tries in the last five minutes.
"I didn't see the game ending how it did," HIBS captain Tom Devery said.
"We were confident during the week we could beat Town and our defensive effort was outstanding but credit to Town they regrouped and responded when they had to.
"We had our chances and there is no one to blame but ourselves."
Honesty has been at the heart of HIBS season. The team nickname themselves 'The Battlers' with their gritty resolve discovered in Cairns.
"We played a couple of games against a Cairns Invitational XV stacked with bigger league boys. It was a real test of our defence, and we had some pretty intense fitness sessions in the heat," Devery said.
"Australia was massive for all of us. We built a culture, confidence and purpose that has served us all season."
HIBS comfortably won their grading games to reach the Premiership. Early success against St Bernard's College and Rongotai College paved the way for the historic semi-final push.
"St Bernard's has been a make-or-break game for us the past couple of seasons and we've dropped it twice. Beating them was a big mental and physical relief," Devery said.
"Rongotai was the same thing. We know we're not the biggest team, so we back our fitness to attack the edges and really attack the rucks especially late in the half to try and cause disruption."
Devery is a quality No.8 with excellent distribution skills and the ability to be dominant on defence. Those attributes will be required to topple top of the table Scots College in the semi-finals this weekend.
Despite a brilliant early try to first-five Sean Carter, HIBS was soundly beaten.
"I feel the score didn't reflect how close the game really was. Their No.8 Harry Irving is a really talented player and they've got some big boys who are hard to stop if they get a role on. We are going to have to knock them over and back ourselves on the edge," Devery theorised.
Tom's dad, former Wellington Lions lock and loose forward Richard Devery is HIBS head coach.
"It's pretty awesome having Dad as coach. He brings a lot of knowledge and though sometimes you wish rugby was left at rugby the conversations never stop. Mum loves it too."
HIBS: The Road to the semi-finals:
· Round 1: Bear St Bernard’s College 11-7
· Round 2: Beat Rongotai College 8-7
· Round 3: Beat Tawa College 34-15
· Round 4: Lost to St Pat’s Silverstream 48-0
· Round 5: Lost to Scots College 65-21
· Round 6: Beat Mana College 44-3
· Round 7: Beat Wairarapa College 33-21
· Round 8: Lost to Wellington College 5-0
· Round 9: Lost to St Pat’s Town 14-12
Premiership Semi-Finals this weekend (both matches at 12.30pm)
· Scots College (1) v Hutt International Boys’ School (4)
· St Pat’s Silverstream (20 v Wellington College (3)
St Mary’s College year 13 rugby player Justine McGregor had no inclination of her selection in the Black Ferns XV rugby team that was named at the start of this week.
“It was a shock, and I didn’t know that I was part of their plans and that they were talking about me,” said Justine.
“I felt like there were elements of my game in the recent Farah Palmer Cup playing for Wellington where I had performed well and expressed myself, but I didn’t know that I was in the selection frame for this team.”
Justine heard of her call-up, which is the Black Ferns development team and thus a stepping-stone towards full international honours, when she answered her phone at home and it was coach Whitney Hansen on the other end who told her the good news.
The team assembles for a week between 17-24 September and plays a one-off international against a Manusina (Samoa) XV on Saturday 23 September at Pukekohe.
Justine is one of five teenagers in this squad and is the youngest, aged 17. Her Petone club teammate Harmony Kautai (aged 19) is also selected.
Her selection is little surprise to those around her as she has been a rising star in Wellington women’s rugby for a couple of years and recently spent her second season playing for the Wellington Pride, impressing with her skill and maturity on the wing or in the midfield and appearing in all six of their competition matches.
This year she also played her second full season of club rugby, transferring from Marist St Pat’s to Petone, and producing several eye-catching performances that belied her youth.
“I enjoyed my season of club rugby this year for Petone, stepping up more and going into games with more vision and confidence. We had a really good team culture and even though we didn’t win the title there were plenty of highlights.”
Justine played at centre for Petone in the Wellington Women’s club rugby final, marking two former St Mary’s College players and later Pride teammates in the midfield, Monica Tagoai and Drenna Falaniko. MSP won the decider 36-32.
Justine has played 20 club rugby matches for MSP and Petone combined and has scored 16 tries, including scoring a hat-trick on debut last season for MSP against Poneke.
Her move to Petone this year was to be nearer to home (Lower Hutt) and in large part to be coached by Shannon Nightingale, who has also been the St Mary’s coach for the past three years.
“Shannon has helped me a lot on my rugby journey, and I wouldn’t be where I am to this day and wouldn’t have accomplished what I have without him. He tells me to stay humble and to be the hardest worker in the room and he not only wants me to succeed on the field but off it too.”
Justine was part of a group of St Mary’s players who played for the club under Nightingale this year.
She also thanked strength and conditioning coach Joel Marshall. “Joel helps me with my speed trainings, my gym sessions and my fitness and his help over the past few months has been invaluable for me.”
Justine’s preferred position is centre. “I love being busy on the field and challenging myself and working with and communicating my ideas and always learning.”
She captained the St Mary’s team this year to the Wellington title, and they split their matches towards the end of the season with rivals Manukura, but lost the match that counted, the Hurricanes final and Top 4 qualifier.
“We lost that game, but I’m really proud of the team and the players. For a school that doesn’t have a field I feel for girls just hustling their way to get to trainings outside of school we do well.”
She also enjoys sevens rugby and plans to go to Condor 7s at the end of this year as her final school tournament.
Last December, she played in the New Zealand Under 18 Girls Sevens Team at the World Schools 7s tournament, alongside former St Mary’s player and Pride teammate this year, Arene Landon-Lane.
Justine learnt a lot from that team playing in a high-level environment, as well as playing in the Farah Palmer Cup this year with the Wellington Pride.
“Personally, I only got half a game last season, but being in the squad really playing pushed me to do better and I took every opportunity I could this year.
“It was a difficult season results-wise, but we weren’t far off, and people don’t see the hard work that the players put in. The Pride will come back stronger in the future.
Justine started playing Rippa rugby several years ago.
“My uncle took me down to the Wainuiomata club where I started, and him and my cousins were a bit shocked when I picked up a ball and ran and immediately took to the game!”
From there she moved over the hill to the Hutt Old Boys Marist Junior club and subsequently kept playing through to secondary school.
Her first sport was softball, while she has also played netball, touch and rugby league. “From year 12 I just wanted to focus on rugby and sevens, so I dropped all other sports.”
Justine is still working through her plans for next year when she leaves school, but what is certain is that rugby won’t be far away from anything she does.
MANUKURA (19) v Christchurch Girls' High School (19)
The engraver will put the names of MANUKURA and Christchurch Girls’ High School as joint winners in 2022 on the Hine Pounamu Trophy, after the two schools drew 19-19 in the first final of the day.
The two teams with the shared Trophy.[/caption]But did MANUKURA rob themselves of one last chance at the death, when they were awarded a penalty 35 metres out and after a brief on-field consultation chose to kick the ball dead and end the game.
The kick was probably too far out for MANUKURA’s halfback and kicker Maia Davis, but many were left wondering why they didn’t take a quick tap and attempt to conjure a final play try or win another penalty closer to the line instead?
As it was, MANUKURA were left lamenting an outright trophy win and a final, likely by their own admission, they let slip.
MANUKURA let a 19-0 lead evaporate and later when still leading 19-12, Davis missed two consecutive penalties on goal from inside the 22, the first a sitter under the poles which she mis-hit and it sliced away.
Leading 14-0 at the halftime interval, MANUKURA quickly extended their lead when fullback Nia Sutherland scored a well-worked second phase from an attacking scrum, running on to a skip-out pass across the posts and scoring untouched.
CGHS were committed and relenting all day at the breakdowns, and a turnover from a partial charge-down of a clearing kick at a ruck on the 22 resulted in second five Kelera Qalivutu scampering 20 metres to score to make it 19-5.
Five minutes later, CGHS first five Poppy Baxter (daughter of Canterbury FPC coach Blair Baxter) rushed up on defence in centre field and intercepted a pass and sprinted all the way to score. The conversion by fullback Harriet Cochrane made it 19-12.
Surviving another momentum shift and MANUKURA raid up into their red-zone, CGHS regrouped and did the same at the other end. They built pressure through phase play and MANUKURA blindside flanker Huia Whakatihi-Heremaia was sin-binned and CGHS finally scored again through halfback Rylee Munro. Replacement Zoe Gullery slotted the conversion and it was all square with several minutes still to play.
Neither side was able to break the other again, and the match finished that way with MANUKURA kicking it into touch at the end.
Perhaps fittingly, the match ended on a penalty, with no fewer that 32 penalties blown throughout the game which blunted much of the flow.
The first half was dominated by whistle, both sides making mistakes in the slippery underfoot conditions following morning rain, and both conceding numerous penalties.
The latter would prove costly for CGHS after hooker Grace Meecham was sent to the sin-bin in the 19th minute for repeated breakdown infringements.
In her absence, MANUKURA would score both their first half tries, giving them a 14-0 lead at the halftime interval.
The first of these saw halfback Maia Davis accelerate into a hole in centre field from halfway and free up No. 8 Pounamu Wharehinga who out paced the covering defence and ran round to score under the posts. Davis’ conversion made it 7-0.
The second came after Davis freed up centre Hope Stanshall near the corner from a short-range burst but the latter was bundled into touch. From the next play, CGHS made a terrible hash of their defensive lineout and MANUKURA openside flanker Alizay Grant only had to dive on the ball in the in-goal to score and double her side’s lead.
Earlier, the opening 10 minutes and much of the next 10 minutes after that was dominated by CGHS. Like they had against St Mary’s in their Hurricanes semi-final and against AGGS in Friday’s semi-final, they defended stoutly.
CGHS fullback Cochrane missed with an early penalty shot and should have scored following a sustained raid up into the 22.
Auckland Girls' Grammar School beat Manurewa High School met in the Girls 3 v 4 playoff match (score to be confirmed).
There have now been seven draws in Nationals finals. They are:
Hamilton Boys’ High School are National Top Four champions for a fifth time defeating a defiant Napier Boys’ High School 17-15.
[caption id="attachment_15303" align="alignnone" width="677"] Hamilton Boys' High School celebrate with the Barbarians Top 4 Trophy.[/caption]In a game that was brutal and tactically cautious, especially Napier, the climax was box-office.
With two minutes remaining Napier was ahead 15-12 and tried to quarantine the ball among their forwards. Hamilton resisted so Napier spread to midfield. Diminutive second-five CJ Mienie was barreled in a tomahawk of a tackle fumbling possession. Hamilton right wing Caelys Putoko pounced on the spillage at the ten-metre mark Napier territory and screamed to within five meters of the line, denied desperately by feverish chasers.
Hamilton was patient (unusual throughout) exploring the left side where there was no hole. Back right Napier was cooked, the stubborn blue wall finally exhumed of all oxygen. Fittingly, Putoko finished.
It was a harsh end for ‘beast’ Mienie. His bravery, intelligence and industry on defense was heroic, a symbol of Napier’s heart. Five minutes earlier he made a try saving tackle on the opposite winger who was considerably larger and faster.
In the first-half Napier resisted persistent and expansive Hamilton attacks for 10 minutes until they finally arrested some territory. Napier’s rolling maul is their most potent weapon and after a strong thrust at the Hamilton line, blindside George Mason wouldn’t be stopped from close range.
Hamilton’s initial ambition to play expansively would be suppressed largely as the breakdowns became a furnace. Napier lost openside and captain Max Ratcliffe to the sin bin in the 17th minute. Nine minutes later Hamilton replicated Napier’s forward muscle with a rolling maul try to hooker Tom McCarthy.
Napier rallied and took a 12-5 lead to the break when the ball made a rare visit beyond ten and fullback Josh Augustine capitalised on an overlap. The forwards had created the space with their uncompromising, close-quarter raids.
It took 17 minutes for any scoring in the second-half. Napier First-five Cory Berkett slotted a 25-metre penalty after Napier had predominantly been in retreat.
Hamilton’s bench added punch and the wave of sustained attacks continued. In the 59th minute centre and captain Aki Tuivailala stepped off the right foot as the Napier line rushed left, too late. The conversion by fullback Payton Spencer (son of All Black Carlos Spencer) cut the deficit to 15-12.
Tactically Napier turned the match into a slog but Hamilton is battle-hardened and with the exception of their semi-final blowout on Friday, had won their last two games by a combined four points. Their greater ambition and ability to execute when it most counted made them worthy champions. The winning moment by Putoko, a graceful and dynamic preformer, wasn’t the only occasion he terrorized the Napier defense. The ‘factory’ delivers again.
For Napier both locks George and Angus Prouting, tighthead Gus Brown, and loose forwards Mason, Ratcliffe and Jared Martin were outstanding. Berkett’s right-boot is educated.
Hamilton joins Kelston Boys’ High School and Wesley College to have won five National Top Four titles. Hamilton only made their first top four in 2007. They also hold the Moascar Cup and Condor Sevens titles as well.
The referee was Jack Sargentina from Wellington.
Westlake Boys' High School beat John McGlashan College 36-22 in the Boys 3 v 4 playoff fixture.
Brenda Collins was a popular and successful teacher and rugby player in Wellington. She played 13 games as a utility back for the Pride alongside sisters, Helen and Tiana. Between 2006 and 2018 she was a member of the Norths Premiers. They won seven Tia Passi Cup Memorial titles.
The sister of late All Black Jerry Collins, made a simmarly big impression in the classroom as a health and physical education teacher at Wainuiomata High School and Aotea College before becoming a lecturer for the New Zealand Institute of Sport.
She left Wellington in pursuit of a new challenge three years ago, settling at Manurewa High School in South Auckland. In the past week she has coached the girls First XV to their first National Top Four Championship appearance and helped the First XIII league team capture the National crown.
Remarkably all 22 girls from the rugby team were part of the league success. Furthermore 15 players are aged under 16 - Manurewa losing 40% of its Year 12 and 13 roll during the worst of the Covid pandemic.
“Manurewa is similar to Porirua in terms of the Maori and Pacific population, and the family oriented vibe of the school,” Collins said.
“When I left Wellington I needed a new challenge, and though I love Manurewa, unfortunately I’ve spent a lot of time in Wellington teaching online because of Covid.
“Lockdowns were very challenging for our student community. We had to seek support for extra computers and WIFI facilities. Many of our students never returned to school needing to work to support their families or were disengaged by the lack of real connection.
“From a sporting perspective we tried at home workouts and online coaching courses but that didn’t really work. The dynamics of home were another real challenge for learning. It’s been wonderful to have a full season this year. We know how lucky we are everytime we play, and celebrating and embracing that opportunity has been our theme.”
At the start of the 2022 season Manurewa travelled to Wellington and were hosted by the Norths Rugby Club where they played preseason fixtures against Norths Combined and St Mary’s College at Jerry Collins Stadium.
There are a relatively healthy eight teams in the Auckland Secondary Schools Rugby Union competition. Manurewa made the semi-finals, beaten by eventual winners, and fellow National Top Four qualifiers, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School 34-12.
Manurewa is part of the Chiefs Regional qualifying zone for the National Top Four. They faced Counties rivals Wesley College in their first match to reach the tournament and won 22-15 on a last play try.
Things have been completely hectic since August 24. That Wednesday, Manurewa travelled to New Plymouth and destroyed Sacred Heart College 85-0 in the Chiefs Regional semi-final. Former All Black, and close friend of Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe met the team before the game.
Next Monday they had to topple Hamilton Girls’ High School to secure a place in Palmerston North at the Top Four. Hamilton are the defending National Champions, and in the last National final slayed Christchurch Girls’ High School, 58-7 in 2019. Manurewa stunned Hamilton, 27-10.
“It was a very tight game against a well drilled side. We defended with patience, got our basics right, and eventually expressed ourselves. It was a special win,” Collins said.
There was little time for celebration. At 6am the next morning Manurewa was on the bus to the League Nationals in Rotorua. They lost their first game to Auckland Girls’ Grammar School at 2pm.
Manurewa found their groove the following three days defeating Taikura (40-0), Te Whanau A Noa (54-0) and Southern Cross Campus (30-10) to set up a replay of their match with Auckland Girls’ Grammar School in the final.
In an epic and brutal tussle, Manurewa won 8-4. Seven players, Chevy Brough, Jonesha Katipa-Blakelock, June Westerlund, Kingslee Hohaia, Saylor-Praise Maletino, Sharnyze Pihema and Violet Hiku were named in the tournament team. Pihema was named MVP of the tournament, Westerlund MVP of the final. Both girls share the rugby union captaincy, playing flanker and kicking goals.
Seven games in a dozen days, including six on the trot. Collins’ co-coach is Dannica Fatani, a longtime premier player herself in South Auckland.
Manurewa takes on South Island champions Christchurch Girls’ High School in their first game of the National Top Four on Friday. In the other semi-final Hurricanes champions MANAKURA meets Auckland Girls' Grammar School.
This article by Adam Julian was also published on Club Rugby on 7 September 2022.
Known by her middle name, Manukura's captain took centre stage for her rugby First XV last week when they completed an unbeaten season by beating St Mary’s College, Wellington, in the Hurricanes region final.
Manukura defeated St Mary’s 19-12 in a gripping tussle in Palmerston North and Elinor-Plum King was in the thick of the action. The openside flanker was a turnover terrier, leading lineout jumper and a shining example of the fruits of hard work.
Elinor is her first name and Plum her middle name, hence Elinor-Plum on teamsheets. “Growing up, and still today, people always call me Plum, so that has stuck,” she told College Sport Media last week after the Hurricanes final.
Elinor-Plum is one of two players in the current Manukura team who are in this year’s Manawatu Cyclones Women’s NPC rugby squad, alongside Holly-Rae Mete-Renata.
The pair have played several matches each for the Cyclones throughout this year’s NPC, which was put on hold for a month from mid-August due to lockdowns but reaches its zenith this coming weekend with the finals which Manawatu are part of.
“I play openside flanker for school and for the Cyclones, and Holly-Rae plays midfield or flanker for our school team but she plays wing for the Cyclones.”
Playing blindside flanker, Holly-Rae scored the first of her team’s three tries in the final from a break 40 metres out and runaway to the line. Manukura would lead 12-7 at halftime and score the opening try of the second half which proved enough for victory.
“It was a hard game against St Mary’s, our toughest game of the year,” said Elinor-Plum, “but we won and achieved our goal for the season, which was to go undefeated.”
As well as winning this match, another notable win for Manukura was beating two-time defending national Top 4 champions Hamilton Girls’ High School 33-15 in June.
They comfortably won the Manawatu Secondary Schoolgirls competition and beat Feilding High School the previous week before playing St Mary’s.
The Top 4 was last contested in 2019, with Covid-19 preventing the last two tournaments from going ahead. So for five year 13s in the current side, last week’s win over St Mary’s was their final 15s game for their school. These players were Elinor-Plum, Holly-Rae, lock Katiola Afemui, hooker Kaea Boyd and wing Tui Aroha.
The Condor 7s went ahead last year and it is still hoped it can be played this year too. Manukura had a great run in Condors in 2020.
“We finished second to Howick College in the final last year, so that was really fun to be part of.”
Girls rugby at Manukura has come a long way since starting in 2015 with a 10-a-side team.
Elinor-Plum doesn’t have a preference for 15s or sevens. “I really enjoy playing sevens but 15s is more for me, it suits my game.”
As well as for school, many of Manukura’s players play club rugby, and a large contingent played for the Kia Toa and Feilding Old Boys-Oroua sides that met in the Manawatu club final earlier this winter.
“Most of us that played club rugby this year played for FOBO, except for a couple of girls who played for Kia Toa.”
Elinor-Plum’s FOBO side lost the final, but her consistent form saw her selected in the Cyclones squad, alongside Hollyrae.
“I didn’t know I was going to be picked, but when I got told by coach Fusi Feaunati it was really exciting.”
She made her NPC debut for Manawatu in the team’s round two win over Taranaki, starting at openside flanker, and has played five competition matches since. She scored her first NPC try in Manawatu’s 67-12 win over Hawke’s Bay in early August.
This coming weekend Manawatu plays Hawke’s Bay in the NPC Championship final - against her home province. She is from Ongaonga in central Hawke’s Bay, about 20km inland from Waipukurau.
“That’s where I started playing rugby, I have been playing since I was four and I started playing rippa rugby.”
Many of Manukura’s students are from outside Palmerston North. There is no hostel per se at the school, Elinor-Plum and outside students live with their whanau or with families of others around the city.
Next year, Elinor-Plum hopes to go to Massey University in Palmerston North and to continue playing club and hopefully representative rugby.
With the 15s season over, Manukura’s sevens programme starts shortly, with the team scheduled to play in the annual Hurricanes Schools 7s tournament in Masterton at the end of October.
Story and Manukura team photos by Steven White, for College Sport Media, October 2021.
Nelson College are South Island First XV rugby champions for the second time in three years. Ollie Inch is captain and centre in 2021. He has featured in just about every game the past three seasons.
Saturday’s 27-19 victory over Otago Boys’ High School in the South Island final at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium was his 50th appearance for the First XV.
“We had one job to do and we were pretty excited coming off last week’s big win. It’s been a long season, Covid slowed things down a bit, but I couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” Inch said.
“We had to trust our skills and stick to the game plan to beat Otago. We have got a big pack and if we execute our plan then it makes it tough for the opposition.”
In bright sunshine, Nelson started at a breakneck pace with a 14-phase attack before prop Ben Lefale rampaged into a gap to score under the posts. Cooper Grant converted and landed a penalty soon after to put Nelson up 10-0 after just six minutes.
Inch, Grant and halfback Wil Thornalley were potent and further tries to Nelson fullback Nic Sauira, and hulking blindside Netani Baleisomosomo put the visitors well clear. However, Otago struck back with two quick tries of their own, setting up a tense last quarter with Nelson leading 27-19.
“We didn’t have the ball, made too many mistakes, and were trapped in our half, defending for a long period. Otago are a quality side and if you give them a sniff they will take a mile.
“We had to work hard over lockdown to maintain fitness. That was left up to individual players to push themselves. Our ability to defend for long periods and finish strong in other games showed we put the work in.”
It was a minor miracle Nelson was involved in the South Island final in the first place. A week earlier at Trafalgar Park, Nelson was down 15-3 at halftime to Christ’s College in the final of the Crusaders First XV championship. However, tries to Baleisomosomo, Jayden Waharoa and Timi Sauria turned the deficit into a 22-20 win. It was a repeat of the annual quadrangular final where Nelson flipped a 20-3 disadvantage at the break to prevail 27-25.
“Christ’s are a quality side, well-drilled with lots of passion for their school. We came out of the gates slowly which wasn’t the plan, but we knew after Quad we could do it. We had to put our heads down, increase our intensity and get our forward game going.
“As captain I try to stay positive. We have a mantra in our team: Next job. You can’t get your tails between your legs. Things happen quickly so staying positive and accepting the odd mistake will happen is vital.
“We have a pretty good culture driven by the coaches. We do a lot of travelling so we have someone in charge of the music, games on the bus. It’s a good balance between serious and a lot of fun.”
Inch models his own game on Nelson College All Black David Havili and was touched when several Tasman Mako presented the team jerseys at the 2020 Quadrangular tournament.
Nelson won the Crusaders Championship in 2019, beating Christchurch Boys’ High School 35-31 in the final. Prior to that success they’d only won the championship once in 2007 when they foiled St Bede’s College 31-26 in the final. That season Nelson won 19 of 22 games and attended the National Top Four. Which season was more enjoyable for Inch?
“It’s tough to pick because they were so different. In 2019 I was a young buck. I looked up to a lot of boys. This year I was a leader and had to be a role model so it’s nice to leave the team in good shape.”
Nelson College rugby is rarely in bad shape. The school played the very first game of rugby in New Zealand on May 14, 1870. The First XV have enjoyed many golden eras. Between 1996 and 1998 the side won 76 out of 91 games including the Quadrugular each year. The same feat happened from 1946 to 1949 when the record was 56 wins in 63 games. In 1959 the First XV was unbeaten in 20 games.
Nelson has won the Quadrangular five times since 2015. In 2019 they won 16 out of 19 games, attending the National Top Four. This season the only blemishes in 17 games were a 12-12 draw against Christchurch Boys’ High School and a 14-17 setback to Marlborough Boys’ College. Additionally, Rongotai College and Wellington champions St Patrick’s College, Silverstream were crushed in a pre-season tour of the capital.
Inch is planning to head to Lincoln University next year where he will play rugby and study commerce and agriculture.
Story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
For the first time this millennium Kelston Boys’ High School are 1A First XV champions. The West Auckland outfit were declared official winners of the competition, abandoned last week, with just a single round-robin fixture, semis, and a final remaining.
Any doubts about Kelston’s championship credentials can be quickly banished by looking at their season record. All 10 1A matches were won by an average score of 32-9 and across the entire season 18 consecutive victories were achieved. Furthermore, names with strong links to a successful past forged their own legacy of success.
Senita Lauaki was selected in the New Zealand Barbarians Under 18 squad. He is the younger brother of late All Black Sione Lauaki, a damaging loose forward and talisman for young Tongans.
“My brother Sione Lauaki in our family is known as Tupu because his full name is Sione Tu’itupu Lauaki. The last time Kelston won the 1A title was when my brother was playing, and it was also his last year. My drive this year was to win the title back. This is my way of keeping his legacy alive and staying close to him,” Senita said.
Ironically Senita is also No.8. Sione was a loose forward in the 1998 Kelston First XV that remarkably beat St Kentigern’s College 58-13 in the 1A final. Centurion All Black Mils Muliaina also featured in that game.
“My strength is my work ethic and doing my job. Leadership is not really hard; it’s about being simple. We come in, have a breath, process things and try to do something different,” Senita observed.
“I think we did well this year because we know each other so well and could say “bro you're not doing this right, holding each other to account.”
Kelston were runners up in the 2020 Condor Sevens and have fashioned an impressive record in the Under-15 and 2nd XV grades. Most local boys have been persuaded to stay rather than accepting scholarships elsewhere, an issue which has affected depth in the recent past. Kelston had failed to make the 1A semi-finals since 2011.
Halfback Sam Howling will join Senita in the New Zealand Barbarians. His brother is old boy Matt Howling who coaches the First XV and is director of rugby at the college. Sam complements the ‘follow me’ approach of Senita by being “more of a talker.”
“I do most of the chatting with the ref and fire the boys up. My job is to deliver first and only have a crack when it’s on. My brother is a good thinker. He does a lot of in-depth analysis, breaking the game down,” Sam said.
“We had belief we could do it. We’ve stuck together and last year had a few moments where we really clicked. Clicking more consistently was the challenge.”
Howling (left) and Lauaki (right) playing against Dilworth College.
In pre-season Kelston destroyed Gisborne Boys’ High School 71-6 at the Rectory, warning rivals of what could happen when the team clicked. Their 44-7 demolition of St Kentigern College to start 1A was even more impressive. The home field that day was named after All Black wing and former pupil Va'aiga Tuigamala.
St Peter’s College was second and defending champions King’s College third in 1A. Kelston toppled both.
“They were hard games. They challenged us physically and had a lot of threats. It would have been tough to play again,” Howling said.
Senita identified Tauranga Boys’ College as the toughest opponent.
“Playing those boys was different, their type of physicality, they loved the ruck, country boys, they beat Hamilton Boys. They were good.”
The ability to adapt to different styles served Kelston well. Outstanding loose forward Zyon Maiuu has signed with the Warriors. Midfield back Essendon Tuitupou (son of former Kelston All Black Sam Tuitupou) and huge prop Tony Tafa were picked for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team.
“Essendon is a good centre. He passes good which gives his outsides lots of chances. He can hurt in the tackle too,” Sam observed.
At times Tafa has resembled a raging bull which Senita laughs requires careful management.
“I don’t really talk to him. If he does something wrong I go, ‘Oh Tony’ and he seems to know. If we really need to talk to him, I get one of the other boys to do it.”
The New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarians will play the curtain raiser to a Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on 8 October.
“To be honest I didn’t know the difference between the two teams. It’s only the beginning. The environment is going to be different being around experienced people, getting to know new players and learning things at a top level,” Senita said.
Senita enjoys history and is planning to study clinical psychology at university next year. Sam is seeking a building apprenticeship. Matt Howling attended Kelston from 2005 to 2010. After a period in England he took up teaching and has been coaching at the college for three years. He was ably supported by old boy and staff member Athens Henare who captained the 1993 and 1994 First XV’s to Auckland glory.
Kelston BHS Results: 2021
Massey High School, 38-12
Ponsonby U21, 43-19
Hastings BHS, 28-12
Westlake BHS, 38 -7
Gisborne BHS, 71-6
Wesley College, 43- 8
St Pauls & Liston College, Won both halves
Tauranga BHS, 17-3
1A 1st XV Results
St Kentigern College, 44 -7
Mount Albert Grammar School, 24 - 13
St Peter’s College, 17 - 12
Aorere College, 39-0
Tangaroa College, 26-5
Dilworth College, 40-21
Sacred Heart College, 26-15
De La Salle College, 29-5
King’s College, 22-17
Liston College, 57-0
1A Auckland Champions: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998
National Top Four Champions: 1995, 1996, 1999
Moascar Cup Holders: 1999
World Secondary Schools Champions: 1998
Biggest Win v Major Opponent: 86-3 v Sacred Heart, 1999
School Records For Most Wins And Points In A Season: 1998
Coaches: Gary Henley-Smith, Logan McPherson, Bruce Cunningham, Rob Sturch, Bryan Megson, Dennis Matene, Nigel Hotham.
Manager: Chris Parsons.
Did You Know?
The 1995 1A title was decided in one of the strangest games of schoolboy rugby ever played. Kelston had to beat Mount Albert Grammar School to be guaranteed of the title. The game was originally scheduled to be played at Eden Park number two. However when the club game on the number one ground between Suburbs and University was hastily transferred, because of strange pregame antics by the clubs, a decision was made to transfer the school game onto the number one ground. The school game kicked off at 1:30pm and was reduced to 27 minutes and a half because there was another game due to kick off at 2:30pm. Kelston took an early lead when Shane Connelly scored a try and Loki Crichton kicked a penalty. However, Mount Albert snatched the lead late in the game, when they scored an intercept try after Kelston looked likely to score. Logan McPherson recalled in the Western Leader at the time. “When Mount Albert scored their length of the field intercept try, I wondered whether we’d have the time to claw our way back.” With three minutes to go Crichton positioned himself for a drop goal and sent the ball between the uprights to give Kelston the win in the nick of time.
Kelston have won the Auckland 1A title a dozen times overall with their first title in 1977. They won the first of the five National Top Four titles in 1989 and have won the Condor Sevens five times. They held the Moascar Cup in 1999, 2011 and 2012.
Interview and story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
Christ’s College First XV was at its lowest ebb in 2015 when embarrassed 80-0 on national television by fiercest rivals Christchurch Boys’ High School. Soon to be All Black Will Jordan scored four tries while Christ’s supporters sarcastically chanted ‘we want your coaches.’
That summer the cleanout was swift. New coaches, new players and a new culture was installed. Christ’s topped the round robin of the then UC Championship in 2016 - beaten in the semi-finals by Timaru Boys’ High School.
In 2018 another milestone in the cultural shift of the First XV occurred when a new haka was introduced. It was composed by Wiremu Gray, school counsellor and wellbeing facilitator for Māori youth in Christchurch.
Entitled ‘Te Kura Karaiti’ the haka symbolises the coming together of the school family by paying homage to school heritage, values and culture. It challenges the boys to rise up, warning opponents that Christ’s love their team and school.
This Saturday Christ’s travels to Trafalgar Park to tackle Nelson College in the Myles Toyota championship First XV final. Christ’s haka will be led by loose forward and recent Maori Under-18 selection Hendrix Taylor (Ngāti Kahungunu).
“I’ve led the Haka for two years and for me it is a huge privilege,” Taylor says.
“I’ve been involved in Kapa Haka and though I don’t speak Maori the culture is a big part of my identity. I want to learn more about it. We practice the haka hard. The boys enjoy doing it. It’s important.”
Greater backbone and substance has been a feature of Christ’s rugby since 2016. They have made the semi-finals or better five times in the past six seasons and this year knocked over top qualifier St Bede’s College to earn a place in the decider.
“That was one of our top games. It was tight to start with but then we went down two tries. We got stuck in and it got close in the second half. We fixed a couple of things, played tight, and got the win.”
The outcome of the St Bede’s match was the opposite of the first meeting with Nelson College which also doubled as the annual Quadrangular Tournament final.
Christ’s was ahead 20-3 at halftime with all three tries scored by wing Jack Belcher happening the same way. Remarkably Nelson rallied to win.
“I don’t know what happened. Maybe we dropped our guard a little which you can’t do against a good side like Nelson. They’ve got some big boys and used them well.
Three of the last six matches have been decided by two points or less with Nelson winning on four occasions and Christ’s twice. Since 2016 Christ’s have won 64 competition matches and Nelson 63.
The storied rivalry between the schools stretches back to 1925 and the beginning of the Quadrangular Tournament. In those games Nelson has enjoyed 31 wins, Christ’s 25 with four draws.
Taylor attended an Area School in Year 9 before moving to Rangiora High School the following year. In 2019 he was offered and accepted a scholarship to Christ’s.
“My dad Johnny really encouraged me to take the scholarship. Christ’s has been the best decision for me. It was a bit of a shock when I first arrived with the discipline and all that.
“Christ’s has helped me do better academically and we're so lucky with our coaches and resources.”
This First XV is coached by former Hurricanes and Crusaders lock Ross Kennedy, All Black Sam Broomhalll and 2018 Tasman National Winning Sevens captain Sam Chamberlain.
“They’ve got a lot of experience and pride. You respect people more when they’ve been there and done that.
“I’ve typically been a loose forward. I like to carry and hustle on defence even though I’m not the biggest guy.
“In the reps I’ve been playing a bit of hooker. I’m only six-foot whereas other guys are a lot taller. I like hooker. It suits my style.”
A highlight of any season is the ‘College match’ against Christchurch Boys’ High School. This year Christ’s won 35-34.
“It’s a great experience with the whole school going crazy and good competition. We were up 18-10 at halftime and then Boys’ High got a couple of lucky tries. Our captain and lock Johnny Lee scored a try from a charge down. That was crucial.”
Christ’s has never won a Crusaders First XV championship title. They lost the very first final in 2001 to Christchurch Boys’ High School. In 2018 they drew 18-18 against the same opponent - cruelly denied glory because of the concession of one more try.
“We go up to Nelson on Friday and will be well prepared. We have to stick to our game plan which is good set-piece, having a crack if it’s on, and shutting down their big men. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got belief.”
Nelson College has won the title in 2007 and 2019. Captain Ollie Inch (12) and lock Hunter Leppien were involved in that game. New Zealand Barbarians flanker Netani Baleisomosomo is a major threat.
The final kicks off at midday on Saturday.
The New Zealand Secondary School U18 Māori side will take part in a game of three halves with the New Zealand Schools’ and Barbarians squads. A yet to be confirmed fixture is likely to be played in October.
Interview and story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
Crusaders First XV Championship last three finals:
2018: Christchurch BHS: 18 v Christ’s College: 18
The first drawn final was an epic tussle influenced significantly by the wind. Christ’s enjoyed its strength in the first-half and after two minutes second-five Shin Miyake kicked a 47-metre penalty to put Christ’s on the board. He followed that success with a penalty from halfway to double the score after a quarter of an hour.
Christchurch attacked sporadically and Cullen Moody missed a penalty out in front before Christ’s broke through and scored a try through George Coull, converted by Miyake to make it 13-0. Moody kicked a penalty just before halftime and Christchurch turned ten points down.
Christ’s attacked early in the second-half with no reward. Christchurch rallied and Corban Harding scored after 46 minutes to make it 13-8, Christ’s Coull played a blinder and in the 51st minute secured his second try in the corner to stretch Christ’s advantage 18-8. Miyake’s conversion started wide right and then came back with the wind and hit the post!
Christchurch regrouped and a try to Thomas Shmack, unconverted by Moody, set up a tight finish at 18-13. Sam Darry was captain of Christ’s on the day. The talented, lock has since played Super Rugby for the Blues. His memory of the final minutes, are vivid.
“Play went back and forward for about ten minutes before Boys’ High broke through and Ryan Barnes scored out wide in the 67th minute. Thankfully Cullen’s kick sprayed left and he missed again to make it 18-18 with three to go. We kicked off and regained the ball through Amlaoibh Porter. We rumbled up field through forward runners. This was a deliberate plan to reduce risk of error and negate the wind. We got to the 22 before passing it back to Kurtis Weeks who tried a drop goal from 22 out in front. Unfortunately, the wind caught the ball and it fell short. Christchurch regained possession and got a penalty. We were offside. They kicked it out to end the game and win because they scored more tries. I’m really proud of the way the boys played that day. It was an epic match.”
2019: Nelson College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 31
Nelson won their first title since 2007 overhauling a halftime deficit to topple Christchurch BHS on a muddy home field. Nelson scored 24 consecutive points in the second half, with captain Anton Segner highlighting his enormous potential by scoring two tries in a man of the match performance. The openside flanker has since played for the champion Taman NPC team.
Christchurch made the perfect start by going 18 phases from the kick off before scoring through prop Sam Frame.
The play was initiated by impressive second-five Keegan McGregor who had a hand in three of his team's tries, including one he scored himself from an inception inside the first 10 seconds of the second half.
Nelson caught fire with a passionate and precise forward display.
Niko Barton finished with 15 points for Nelson, nailing six of his seven attempts at goal. That contribution proved valuable as Christchurch outscored Nelson five tries to four. Connor Johnston and Daniel Rogers also crossed the stripe for the victors.
2020: St Andrew’s College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 26
St Andrew’s College won their first title but initially that appeared unlikely. Campbell Burnes reported:
After early tries to hooker Charlie Baker and centre and co-captain Callum Simpson, it appeared that Christchurch’s big match experience – 14 finals in 20 years – was going to again tell. The breeze was also in its favour.
But STAC’s comeback emanated from a bustling try to centre Isi Saumake, the first of a brace to the hard to stop No 13. The STAC pack, led by lock Jamie Carr, son of the late All Blacks logistics manager Kevin ‘Chalky’ Carr, rolled its sleeves up and brought total commitment to its endeavors, offering no respite to its more highly touted counterparts.
STAC fullback Jack Forrest showed a good step to edge his side in front five minutes into the second stanza. Christchurch clawed its way back onto the final, and was at 26-28 when STAC sub Conor Newton raced 55m to score between the uprights after a ruck turnover to cement the win.
STAC’s bench offered full impact and there were emotional scenes at fulltime as the STAC supporters were in full voice during their haka.
Mānawa means to give everything until the last beat of your heart. It’s a mantra embraced by the St Thomas of Canterbury College First XV. Few have actioned the concept better in 2021 than captain Jack Coulthard. The cheerful, articulate and inspirational flanker is on the cusp of leading St Thomas into their maiden Miles Toyota Crusaders First XV Premiership semi-final.
With two bonus points, or a draw, against top of the table St Bede’s College on Saturday, St Thomas will qualify. Ironically Coulthard wanted to go to St Bede’s.
“I was looking at going to St Bede’s even though my brother went to St Thomas,” Coulthard revealed.
“I was persuaded to come to St Thomas by Mr Hart. I wanted to play rugby and I could see he was passionate about it. There were talented boys everywhere and I could tell they were building something.”
Steve Hart has been principal of the Catholic boys’ school for four years. His sales pitch wasn’t just bluster. In his first year at the college Coulthard was a member of an undefeated team.
Rowing, league, and basketball would soon distract the talented teen. Rowing helped build strength and fitness in the summer - Coulthard, good enough to win a bronze medal in the South Island rowing championships. League is a sport with historical appeal at St Thomas and Coulthard caught the bug helping the Halswell Hornets win a local grand final and representing the South Island Scorpions. In basketball he was a Canterbury age group representative.
“I was a tall kid so I started as a lock. My parents got me into rowing where I discovered how unfit I was. I was just a tall guy running around like a headless chicken. Rowing helped me develop a better mentality with my fitness. I really liked basketball, but in Year 11, I really decided to focus on rugby.”
Recovery from a broken collarbone and residing behind First XV skipper Kole Harmer meant 2020 was somewhat bitter-sweet for Coulthard.
“I got a few games but spent most of the time learning from Kole because he was in my position. Kole is phenomenal. He set really high standards. We had some amazing individual achievements in 2020, but we didn’t share the common mindset so our overall result was disappointing.”
St Thomas won five games in the Miles Toyota Championship in 2018, a tally they have improved on every year since. In 2020 they won eight games and this year they have nine wins. Last season they defeated eventual champions St Andrew’s College 23-14 but finished eighth. Despite winning more games than Shirley Boys’ High School and Nelson College, in sixth and seventh respectively, St Thomas was six points adrift of the top four.
Old Boy and former All Black hooker Mark Hammett is coach. The present Director of Rugby is Johnny Leo’o, involved in coaching at the college since 2016. He is a health/science teacher and Pasifika advisor too.
Leo’o is a proven winner. The flanker played 71 games for Canterbury and won two National provincial titles and the Ranfurly Shield. In 48 games for the Crusaders he was a part of three Super Rugby winning teams. From 2007 to 2014 he played for Racing 92 in France helping the former strugglers gain promotion to the lucrative Top 14. He selected Coulthard as his captain.
“It was a pretty big honor to be named the captain. The key to being a good leader is not to be a traffic cop. I bark a few ideas and try to inspire the boys, but we have to all share a common goal.
“We're trying to change the mentality of being an underdog school to being a school with a target on our backs. We have the right mindset, players, facilities and coaches to beat anyone.”
There is no such thing as an easy game against St Thomas anymore. Their three defeats this season have been by a combined margin of 13 points against St Andrew’s and two top four sides Nelson College and Timaru Boys’ High School. Both Christchurch Boys’ High School and Christ’s College have been tamed.
“The win against Christchurch was my highlight of the season so far. We beat them by 40 points a couple of years ago but this year it was a real dog fight. They scored first and then we scored and they scored. They got two tries ahead, but we won right at the death and were bloody ecstatic.
"We had the school storm the field and parents in tears. It was an unreal feeling, like no other.”
Last Saturday St Thomas was forced to rally from a mile behind to topple Christ’s. Two tries from Coulthard helped get the job done.
“Christ’s are a well-drilled team and had a strong wind behind them in the first-half. We weren’t good on defence though and went to the break 25-7 down. We got two quick tries in the second-half and then an intercept to lead 31-25. They hammered our line for the last 10 minutes and well into extra time. We did crack, but luckily they missed the kick. It’s only the fourth time in our history we have beaten Christ’s.”
The number of teams at St Thomas has increased from eight to 10 and the vast majority of the First XV will return in 2022. The school roll is 630.
Napier Boys’ High School retained the Polson Banner with a 27-17 away victory over Palmerston North Boys’ High School on Wednesday afternoon.
An overwhelming display of first half forward power paved the way to victory for Napier. The visitors collected all their points in the opening stanza and tellingly three tries were scored by forwards.
The kick-off was tipped by Napier openside Max Ratcliffe and the Napier forwards bullied their way inside the 22 with a well organised sequence of 10 phases. A penalty handy to the posts was slotted by halfback Cory Berkett.
Palmerston North responded swiftly with a bust by impressive second-five Leo Gordon. A 32-metre penalty followed by fullback Curtis Heaphy and it was 3-3.
The belligerent Napier forwards soon arrested control and the first try was scored from a lineout drive by hooker Tyrone Crystal - a mini-tank version of former Napier Boys’ turned Wellington Lions hooker Tyrone Thompson.
It was fitting a lineout drive was the source of a try. Napier employed the maul with relentless precision. In the second half when Palmerston North threatened to rally it was the drive that buried that possibility.
Jared Martin scored the second try on the left wing after a skip pass by Berkett avoided two players and found the unmarked lossehead. Such was the force of the Napier drive Martin had actually withdrawn from the most recent maul and positioned himself for a short-side carry.
Tighthead colleague Gus Brown was named man of the match for his bustle and industry.
Ratcliffe would profit next from Napier’s suffocating strategy. Palmerston North were enveloped in tight, leaving space out wide for Napier to claim a 24-3 lead in as many minutes.
It could have been worse for Palmerston North. However, Napier showed mercy with a close range penalty to first-five Tim Slabberook, making it 27-3 at the interval.
Napier was guilty of falling asleep at the start of the second half.
In the 40th minute the determined Gordon flashed off the right foot and beat two defenders to touch down under the sticks. When Slabberook was yellow-carded for accidentally knocking his opponent in the face, the pair were contesting a high-kick, Palmerston North was rejuvenated. Reserve prop Javahn Stevenson smashed over to reduce the margin to 27-15 with 17 minutes left. Heaphy added the extras from the sideline.
Napier mauled Palmerston North from their own ten-metre mark to within a whisker of the paint with two lineout drives. With such overt ascendancy Napier weren’t likely losers, despite a valiant effort from Palmerston North, especially blindside and skipper Joe Simpson-Smith,
Napier coach Brendan Ratcliffe declared his teams’ performance their “best half of the season” and warned “his team can play.” Napier finished Super 8 with three wins and will host Palmerston North (two Super 8 wins) in a Hurricanes Regional National Top Four qualifying playoff on August 21.
About the Polson Banner
The Polson Banner is one of the oldest interschool rugby trophies up for grabs in New Zealand. It was first played for in 1907 but "back dated" to 1904 to record all of the fixtures between the schools.
The original silk banner was donated by the 1902-12 NBHS headmaster, A.S. Polson, and has the colours and the crest of the two respective schools on the reverse sides. The scores for each year's match has been embroidered on the banner over the years.
Polson Banner Statistics
Palmerston North BHS Won: 64
Napier BHS Won: 48
Palmerston North BHS Biggest Win: 45-3, 1981, Won 51-10 in 2015.
Napier BHS Biggest Win: 50-21, 2020
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