With four older rugby playing brothers, including All Black Lima, it is little surprise that Queen Margaret College’s Sopoaga sisters are turning heads on the rugby field.
Older sister Te Araroa (year 13) and Naomi (year 10) were both in top form for their school side in Monday’s Wellington Condor 7s qualifying tournament, helping their team book one of two places on offer for the national tournament in December.
QMC will join 2016 national Condors champions St Mary’s College in Auckland in early December, after St Mary’s beat QMC 26-10 to win their fifth straight Wellington final.
“We were just really happy to qualify for Auckland and play in the national tournament. For all of us as a group, it is just another chance for us to play together in another tournament and hopefully we can do well,” said Te Araroa.
The team only came together for the first time this year for Monday’s tournament. The last rugby they played together and that most of them played at all was last year’s Condors qualifiers.
“Last year we won a few games but just missed in a couple more. We lost to St Mary’s and Sacred Heart and didn’t get to the semis.”
On Monday, QMC opened their tournament with a 20-5 win over Sacred Heart College, before beating St Mary’s 10-7 in their second game, that saw St Mary’s pressing hard in the dying stages before a length of the field breakout try to Paris Lokotui won the match. QMC then beat Wellington East 22-0 and then the St Mary’s second team 24-10 in the semi-final.
In the final, St Mary’s 1 burst out of the gates to establish a three-try lead and went on to win. Te Araroa scored for QMC just before halftime, but St Mary’s sealed victory with another second half try.
“After the semi-final, we knew we had qualified for the Condors so playing St Mary’s in the final was a good learning curve for us and we took a lot out of it,” enthused Te Araroa.
This will be QMC’s first taste of the Condors, but some of the players won’t be lacking for big game experience having excelled on the national stage in other codes such as basketball and netball.
Te Araroa spent much of this season playing netball for QMC in the defensive circle with Paris Lokotui who was selected as part of the NZSS netball squad earlier this year.
QMC finished fifth in Wellington and 17th of 32 teams and won the Plate final over Lytton High School in September’s Lower North Island Netball Tournament.
Te Araroa plays as a small forward in basketball and was a key member of their team that finished fifth at the AA Nationals in Palmerston North at the start of October, after being runner-up to Sacred Heart New Plymouth in the Zone qualifiers.
“We lost our quarter-final match at basketball nationals by 2 against Westlake Girls’ High School. Before that we won all our games and topped our pool and beat Hamilton Girls’ High School in a top-of-the-table clash, which was a really big upset.”
Te Araroa and Paris (Paris made the basketball nationals tournament team) and several other QMC students are involved in a combination of or all three basketball netball and rugby 7s codes.
On top of that, Te Araroa also plays volleyball and a bit of touch rugby. “Except for netball, my sister also Naomi plays all the same sports and in the same teams as me, which is good.”
Te Araroa and Naomi are following in the footsteps of their four brothers. Lima is the oldest, followed by Tupou, Ezekiel and Toka. All four went to Wellington College.
“I think growing up, just being around them all the time they kind of influenced me to follow and like rugby and I just kind of fell in to playing it when I got the chance to.”
Coming up, Te Araroa has four NCEA exams, the last one just before QMC heads off to Condors. Following that she is undecided as to what she will be doing next year – but what is certain is sport will be a big part of it.
The Queen Margaret College basketball team that finished runner-up at the AA Nationals was:
Rosie Campbell, Samantha Jenkins, Paris Lokotui, Maia Mariner, Sarina Musa, Tia Pavihi, Naomi Sopoaga, Te Araroa Sopoaga, Lilly Taulelei, Rangi Tawera
The Queen Margaret College rugby 7s team that qualified for the Condor Nationals in December was (team subject to change for the Condors):
Bridget Horgan, Lilly Harris Williams, Ruby Treadwell, Riley Newell, Naomi Sopoaga, Kitana Tawera, Paris Lokotui, Maia Moe Jenkins, Ajah Pritchard Lolo, Jessie Rongen, Te Araroa Sopoaga, Melania Lui-Fa'I, Sarah Caddis, Natalia Bennett
Promising New Zealand school-boy player Jacob Kneepkens has signed with the All Blacks Sevens for two years.
The Francis Douglas High School 1st XV co-captain will move to Tauranga to join the sevens programme at the end of the school year.
In 2018 Kneepkens was a member of the New Zealand Schools squad, made the tournament team at the Condor Sevens and was MVP at the inaugural Red Bull Ignite7 tournament.
The accolades continued this year as he was named in the All Blacks Sevens Development team before returning to play in the New Zealand Schools team for a second campaign.
All Blacks Sevens Coach Clark Laidlaw said Kneepkens’ potential was clear to see.
“Jacob was part of our development programme earlier this year and we could see what a naturally talented athlete he is. And it’s not only on the field, he has a strong work ethic and is an impressive young man.
“It’s exciting to know he will be joining our environment for the next two seasons, we’re looking forward to fostering his development both on and off the field,” said Laidlaw.
Kneepkens follows in the footsteps of emerging stars including Rieko Ioane, Vilimoni Koroi and Etene Nanai-Seturo who started their professional rugby careers in the All Blacks Sevens programme.
He also follows in the footsteps of such players as the Barrett brothers and current Wellington Lions captain Duplessi Kirifi as Francis Douglas Memorial College players.
Two years ago Kneepkens caught the attention of rugby league scouts, signing an academy contract with the Parramatta Eels
The squad is preparing for the start of their 2019/2020 season which packs in 10 World Series tournaments before the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Before the first World Series event in Dubai this December the squad will compete at the annual Oceania Sevens in Fiji.
“I’m a rugby player not Jamie Oliver,” Ridge Studd responded when asked to explain an injury which kept him out of the Under 18 Centurions representative team for a fortnight.
Studd burnt his leg badly while cooking an egg.
“I was cooking poached eggs and went to check a Mitre 10 Cup score. When I returned to the kitchen the pot was frothing. I went to switch off the element, but knocked the pot and the water spilled down my leg,” Studd recalled.
“It bloody hurt, but I only thought I needed some cold water and a bandage. When my sister got home she insisted I go to the hospital where I was told it was more serious.”
Studd is no cook, but he does have the right ingredients on a footy field. Studd was the captain of the Wellington College First XV this season, and though his team struggled, Studd’s consistency at openside flanker was recognised when he was appointed co-captain of the Under 18 Centurions. Studd provides an insight into his leadership philosophy.
“As a captain I try to lead by example and bring a die for the jersey approach. In every team there are boys who want to be in the team and boys who really don’t. Although we didn’t win many games at Wellington College, I was lucky to have the support of a lot of boys who brought the same attitude.”
The Centurions have brought a positive attitude to the Hurricanes Under 18 provincial tournament. The defending Trust Bank Central Secondary Schools Provincial champions will seek to defend their title on Saturday when they travel to Cooks Gardens to tackle Whanganui Under 18.
Whanganui have beaten Poverty Bay (51-22), East Coast (40-14) and the Hawke’s Bay Saracens (41-18) to earn top spot by a point. Whanganui is largely comprised of boys from the Collegiate First XV who had their most successful season in many years. Whanganui beat Wellington College (5-32) at the annual quadrangular tourney in July.
“Whanganui were quite niggly, and clever when they were niggly. They were quick to pounce on our mistakes and had a couple of key players who were damaging. The Fijian 8 ran it from everywhere while the 12 was good on attack and defence,” Studd observed.
The Centurions greatest strength appears to be togetherness and leadership.
“We’ve had 36 players in the team this year, all of whom are still part of the team,” Studd stresses.
“We’ve got five boys who are first year out of school and some Scots boys who have returned after their season ended. We’ve got leaders across the park which makes good playing a whole lot easier.”
The Centurions have had wins over Wairarapa Bush (36-22), the Wellington Samoans (17-12) and Horowhenua-Kapiti (62-10).
Last year, the Centurions beat Wairarapa Bush 50-10 in the final, while Whanganui were sixth out of eight teams.
Studd, fullback Bill Tamani (Tawa College) and midfielder Sage Shaw-Tait (Scots College) each scored a double in the crushing of Horowhenua-Kapiti. Better usage of territory was the telling factor in the slender success over the Samoans.
HIBS prop Harry Press (called up to the NZ Barbarians School squad) and workhorse lock Bede Brown (Rongotai College) are two forwards who have flourished in the campaign. The Centurions backline has been spearheaded by first-five Richard Evans (Hutt Valley High School).
Police detective and Tawa club affiliated Damian Rapira-Davies is the Centurions head coach. Studd concluded with affirmation for another member of the team.
“Daniel Peckston is one of our managers, not officially, but he’s one of those rare guys who does everything from folding jerseys to running touch. He’s a bit lippy, which is sometimes annoying, but we love him. Daniel’s passion for the game is what it’s all about.”
Daniel is a current student of Hutt Valley High School.
The Hurricanes U18 provinical tournament final between the Whanganui U18s and the Centurions U18s kicks off at Cooks Gardens, Whanganui on Saturday at 12.45pm.
The New Zealand Māori Rugby Board has today announced the Māori Under 18 teams for 2019.
The New Zealand Māori U18 Ngā Whatukura team will face Fiji Schools and also play in the game of three halves against New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Schools Barbarians in Palmerston North later this month.
Players have been identified through regional and national camps and selected on form from school, regional and club rugby.
New Zealand Māori Rugby Board Chair Dr Farah Palmer said she was excited to see young Maori talent recognised in the naming of these teams.
“It will be great to see the mana of Māori rugby on display over the next two weeks as the NZ Māori U18 Ngā Whatukura team play Fiji Schools in Rotorua and also take on the New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarians schools teams in a game of three halves in Palmerston North.
“This team represents the future of Māori rugby and our next generation of Māori talent whom I’m sure will move onto higher honours,” said Palmer.
The New Zealand Māori Rugby Board also acknowledged and celebrated the players selected in the U18 Ngā Mareikura team. While there is no match for the under 18 girls in 2019, Palmer said the Board wanted to congratulate the efforts of the young wahine athletes this season and commented that efforts were being made to ensure a programme for this team would be established in future years.
The Ngā Whatukura team will assemble in Rotorua on 17 September before matches against Fiji Schools (22 September) and in the game of three halves in Palmerston North against the New Zealand Schools and the New Zealand Schools Barbarians (26 September).
New Zealand Māori U18 Ngā Whatukura team is;
Blake Rogers - Scots College - Te Aupouri
Carlos Karaitiana - Rotorua BHS - Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe
Cassius Misa - Te Teko Rugby & Sport Club - Ngāti Kahungunu
Ethan Seed - Francis Douglas MC - Te Atiawa
Harry Hansen - Otago BHS - Ngāti Porou
Hemopo Cunningham - Rotorua BHS - Ngāti Pikiao
Hunter Nuku - Taradale RFC - Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tai
Jacob Ward - Napier BHS - Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu
Jayden Walker - Napier BHS - Ngāti Kahungunu
Jock McKenzie - Westlake BHS - Ngāti Maniapoto
Jordan Thompson-Dunn - Hastings BHS - Ngāti Kahungunu
Kaharoa Takuira-Mita -Tauranga BHS - Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui
Keegan McGregor - Christchurch BHS - Ngāti Raukawa
Mercedes Hodge - Hastings BHS - Tūwharetoa
Nephi Sanireve - Trident High School - Ngāti Awa, Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau
Nikora Broughton - Arataki Sports Club - Ngāti Ruanui
Niwa Barlow - New Plymouth BHS - Tūwharetoa
Noah Hotham - Hamilton BHS - Ngāi Tai
Rocky Olsen - Whangarei BHS - Ngāti Whātua
Stuart Leach - Rotorua BHS - Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe
Tamaikoha Te Aute - Rangiuru Sports Club - Te Arawa
Taylor Dale - Otago BHS - Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua
Thomas Murray-Edwards - New Plymouth BHS - Ngāti Whakaue
Tiaki Fabish - Old Boys University, Wellington - Ngāti Maniapoto, Te Whānau ā Apanui
Valance Yates - St Kentigern College - Ngāpuhi
Kahu Carey - Head Coach - Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō
Jeremy Wara - Forwards Coach - Tainui, Ngāti Tahinga, Ngāti Tiipa
Ngatai Walker - Backs Coach - Ngāti Porou
Simon Kneebone - Set Piece Coach - Ngāti Porou
Duncan Cameron - Manager - Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa,Te Whānau ā Apanui, Rangitāne
Mihaere Emery - Cultural Advisor - Tahoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Ngāti Raukawa
Tiki Edwards - Campaign Manager - Whakatōhea, Ngāti Raukawa
NZ Māori U18 Ngā Mareikura team is;
Jaylyn Campbell Waitakere City Rugby Club Te Rarawa
Tuia Edwards Hastings GHS Ngāti Kahungungu
Vici Rose Green Hamilton GHS Ngāti Maniapoto
Daeja Kaponga Putaruru College Ngāti Raukawa
Jurney Blair Te Rarawa Rugby Club Te Rarawa
Mia Anderson Kerikeri High school Ngāpuhi
Savannah Bodman Kamo High school Ngāpuhi
Raegan Robinson Karamu High school Ngāti Kahungunu
Milly Mackay Petone RFC Ngāti Porou
Alesha Williams New Plymouth GHS Te Atiawa
Mania Nuku Hamilton GHS Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui
Kelsey Teneti Lytton High School Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau ā Apanui
Shaniqka Wall Nga Paerangi Manukura School Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Cortez Te Pou Tūhoe Karamu High School Ngāti Kahungunu
Raumati Rogers Marlborough Girls College Tūhoe
Charm Sandilands Karamu High School Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu
Holly Topp Tauranga Girls’ College Ngāi Tahu
Layla Te Rini Trident High School Tūwharetoa
Klee Begbie Putaruru College Ngāti Raukawa
Karlee Cruickshank Central Southland Ngāpuhi
Jamie Church Kavanagh Collage Ngāti Maniapoto, Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou
Naia Toaolamai-Holden Christchurch Girls High Te Atiawa, Ngāti Porou
Shania Kohinga North Otago Ngāti Maniapoto Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Jasmine Oconnell Manukura Ngati-Kahungunu, Ngāti-Maniapoto
Calista Ruruku University of Waikato Te Atihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi
Jayson McRoberts Head Coach Ngāti Kahungunu
Caleb Angew-Jones Assistant coach Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa
Geri Paul Assistant Coach Ngāti Awa
Paula Taylor Anderson Manager Te Atiawa
Tamara Toaloamai Assistant manager Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Hāmoa
Tuterangi Nepe-Apatu Support Ngāti Kahungunu
Players from 29 schools across the country have been named in the New Zealand Schools’ and New Zealand Schools’ Barbarians teams for 2019, announced by New Zealand Rugby today.
A huge 1st XV season culminated last weekend with the Finals played in Palmerston North, the city will also play host to the 50 young players selected across the two representative teams.
The New Zealand Schools squad features seven players that were involved in the schools programme last year, including two who have graduated from the Barbarians team.
The Heartland Unions are represented in the New Zealand Schools team by Whanganui Colleagiate’s Ben Strang. Players represent a total of 12 provincial unions with the biggest representation from Auckland and Canterbury.
Newly-crowned National Co-Ed champions St Kentigern College has seven players selected across the two national Schools teams, with Christchurch Boys’ High School and King’s College also strongly represented.
The New Zealand Schools’ team is:
The New Zealand Schools’ Barbarians team is: is;
This coming weekend’s eighth annual Girls Top 4 rugby tournament features the champion schools from the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes and combined Crusaders/Highlanders regions.
Southland Girls’ High School were the South Island winners and representatives for the first seven years, and won the title in 2016.
Their run of appearances has been broken and five-time Crusaders UC Cup champions Christchurch Girl’s High School will be there for the first time this year.
On Friday, Christchurch GHS meet Auckland’s Onehunga High School in one semi-final, while Hamilton Girls’ High School play Manukura in the other, in a replay of last year’s decider for the Hine Pounamu Trophy (won by Hamilton).
Christchurch Girls’ High School’s co-captains are first five-eighth Alice Dalzell and blindside flanker Charlotte Allen.
Alice said that Christchurch GHS are excited to be going to the Top 4 for the first time.
“At the start of the year our goal was to retain the UC Cup and win in the South Island, which we have achieved and we are really proud of that,” said Alice.
“Going up to Palmerston North will be a new experience for the players, but we have prepared for this opportunity all season and have put in extra trainings since the start of term two.”
Last year, Christchurch GHS were beaten 0-39 by Southland GHS in the South Island decider, but last weekend turned that result around by defeating Dunedin’s St Hilda’s Collegiate 71-21.
“It has been great to see how our team has grown and everyone has come together so well this year,” said Alice. “We don’t have star players but everyone plays for each other.”
Co-captain Charlotte agreed. “One thing we asked the girls before last weekend’s South Island final against St Hilda’s was for them to come off the field afterwards feeling like they had played the best game they had ever played in and then no matter what the score was we would be happy.”
“Every girl on the field did that, and it was whole team effort and that is why we achieved the result we did against St Hilda’s.”
Christchurch GHS previously beat Darfield High School in the final of the Canterbury-wide UC Cup competition that is played on Wednesdays throughout the season.
Heading into Friday’s Top 4 semi-finals, Christchurch GHS’s season record is: played 13, won 13, points for 835, points against 72. The leading points scorers are Mia Cochrane (159) and Naia Toaolamai- Holden (133). The top try-scorer is Alice Hutchinson, who has scored 19 tries.
Co-captains Alice Dalzell and Charlotte are one of several year 13 players who have been in the team for a few seasons, so the trip to the Top 4 will be extra special for the school leavers.
Equally, there will be a similar number of year 9 and 10 players in the Top 4 squad, so win, lose or draw this weekend it will be a well-balanced side and also one that they can build for the future.
Some of the older players play Senior Women’s club rugby in Christchurch, for High School Old Boys.
Several players also play sevens for the school and have experience playing against the North Island schools at the annual Condor 7s in December.
A couple will bring experience playing other sports to a high level, such as No. 8 Jaidyn Busch who is the defending NZSS Senior Girls and U20 Women’s Australian Shot Put champion.
Christchurch Girls' High School Top 4 squad:
Alice Dalzell, Alice Hutchinson, Anna Sweeney, Charlotte Allen, Eliza Dalzell, Erin Humm, Gemma Diedrich, Harriet Cochrane, Holly Wratt-Groeneweg, Jaidyn Busch, Jordan Sanders, Jorja Miller, Kezia Fowler, Blyth,Libby Thomas, Loren Edwards, Mackenzie Allan, Maggie Kelly, Mele Fifita, Mia Cochrane, Michaela Horler, Naia Toaolamai Holden, Rhiannon Merhtens, Rylee Munro, Salome Naikau.
The Top 4 trophy
The girls play for the Hine Pounamu Trophy, which previously was a challenge trophy first presented in 2012 by Rugby Girl and on the line every time the holder took the field against inter-provincial opposition. It is now designated as the main prize at this tournament.
Top 4 tournament winners:
2012: Feilding High School
2013: Feilding High School
2014: Hamilton Girls’ High School
2015: Hamilton Girls’ High School
2016: Southland Girls’ High School
2017: St Mary’s College
2018: Hamilton Girls’ High School
2019 Hine Pounamu Trophy semi-finals (Friday 7 September, at Massey University):
Riley Higgins is hoping this season ends in a similar fashion to 2018.
Last year the St Pat’s Silverstream outside back injured his ankle; returning in time for the Premiership final won by Silverstream 29-22 over St Pats Town.
In May 2019, Higgins broke his thumb against Napier Boys’ High School, but has returned in strong form with a Player of the Match display on national TV against St Pat’s Town and a rare, but efficient appearance at first-five in Silverstream’s 41-10 victory over Rongotai College in the semi-final last Saturday.
“I haven’t played first-five since Under-15’s. We had an injury so everybody moved in one. I’m feeling good and looking forward to Sunday,” Higgins enthused.
Silverstream will seek to become the first team since Wellington College in 2006 to win a hat-trick of Premiership titles. Unlike the previous two seasons Silverstream will start as underdogs against an unbeaten Scots College. Scots thumped Silverstream 34-7 about a month ago.
“Scots played well that day, but we had half a dozen players injured and five second XV players on the bench,” Higgins rued.
“Their backs are dangerous, but I felt we matched them in the forwards. If we stick to our structures and shutdown their danger men we’ve got a chance,” he continued.
Higgins will benefit greatly from past experience. Last year, in the unfamiliar position of wing, he set up the first of three tries for lock Neyla Masima (now with the Warriors).
“We were down 10-0, but showed good composure to comeback. I tried to get involved and was happy to contribute something positive,” Higgins reflected.
Riley’s older brother Kienan Higgins has had positive experiences in finals. In 2017, Kienan was named Player of the Match when Silverstream beat Wellington College 17-11. This season he set up a try in Norths 25-16 win over Wainuiomata in the Wellington club rugby Jubilee Cup climax.
“Kienan likes to remind me that he's won more finals. He doesn’t say anything else, but I know he’s supportive,” Riley laughed.
Silverstream’s season hasn’t been a laughing matter. Their record 28-game unbeaten streak in the Premiership ended and traditional losses to New Plymouth Boys’ High School, St Bede’s College, Palmerston North Boys’ High School and Rongotai College were suffered.
However the likes of Julius Masoe, Mika Felix, Jacob Beattie and Peter Lakai have shown considerable improvement in the forwards and centre Rocco Berry is back to spearhead the backline. Higgins partnership with the recently signed Warrior is perhaps the biggest weapon Silverstream has.
“It’s good to have Rocco back. He’s got a lot of experience and lifts the confidence of the younger boys,” Higgins acclaimed.
Scots had nine selections in the Hurricanes Under-18 camp, Silverstream none. A Silverstream victory would be a massive upset, but Silverstream won the 2010 and 2012 finals from fourth and second position respectively.
“They’ve got two arms and two legs like us. There is a lot of pride in this team. We won’t make it easy for Scots,” Higgins concluded.
Heading into the final, top qualifier Scots College won eight from nine matches in the round-robin this year, scoring 430 points and conceding 88. Third placed qualifier St Pat’s Silverstream won seven and lost two, scoring 348 points and letting in 111.
The Premiership final between St Pats Silverstream and Scots College is at Jerry Collins Stadium at 12:10pm on Sunday.
It is also finals days for all other college grades on Saturday at St Pat’s Silverstream, headlined by Tawa College and Porirua college squaring off in the Premier 2 Murray Jensen Cup final at 1.30pm.
Palmerston North Boys’ High School hosted Napier Boys’ High School in their annual full sports exchange. In the senior sports, the home school won the rubber 3-2 – including winning the famous Polson Banner First XV rugby match.
In the five major sports that were contested amongst the senior teams, Palmerston North BHS beat Napier BHS 27-15 in the First XV rugby, won the First XI Football 5-3 and the Senior golf 6.5 - 1.5. Napier won the First XI hockey 2-0 and also won the First V basketball 83-61. Palmerston North generally had the better of the junior match-ups – results at the bottom of this article.
In the first XV rugby, Palmerston North Boys’ High School won the Polson Banner for the first time since 2015. The win was Palmerston North’s 64th in the 115th edition of the Polson Banner.
In heavy underfoot conditions and weather that started off sunny but turned wet in the second half, Palmerston North played with patience on defence and extra adventure through their backs, with fullback Ruben Love a standout. They won four tries to three, to also register a bonus point win in the final Super 8 fixture of the year for both teams.
The home side out-scored the visitors three tries to one to lead 17-5 at halftime.
But it was Napier that made the more positive start, dominating early possession and bustling centre Jack Sheridan bursting through from 40 metres to score.
Palmerston North worked their way into the contest and in the 21st minute right wing Jayden Keelan returned a kick in play and set sail for the corner flag before passing inside to fullback Love to score their opening try.
In the 27th minute Keelan and Love attacked the shortside first phase from an attacking scrum near halfway, a raid that was brought down just short of the line. This soon led to their second try from a subsequent scrum close to the line through bulldozing prop Nasser Tato.
Just before the break, Napier missed touch with a clearing penalty and fullback Love ran the ball back up towards the 22. Palmerston North recycled quickly from the next ruck and halfback Matt Oldridge darted towards the corner and set up a try for second five-eighth Josh Ellingham.
Napier made a good fist of the opening exchanges of the second half, using their forwards to good effect up the middle and 10 minutes in were finally awarded with their second try to lively halfback Angus Kilmister after a lineout drive.
Palmerston North regrouped and after being held up moments before, popular replacement prop Darius Mafileo crashed over to score what was to be the match-winner. Love’s conversion made it 24-10.
With rain arriving, Napier responded with a forwards try to Reece Henderson after another series of pick and goes.
But that was as close as they got, Love sealing victory with a penalty on fulltime.
About the Polson Banner
The Polson Banner is one of the oldest interschool rugby trophies up for grabs in New Zealand. It was first played for in 1907 but "back dated" to 1904 to record all of the fixtures between the schools.
The original silk banner was donated by the 1902-12 NBHS headmaster, A.S. Polson, and has the colours and the crest of the two respective schools on the reverse sides. The scores for each year's match has been embroidered on the banner over the years.
Polson Banner Statistics
Palmerston North BHS Won: 64
Napier BHS Won: 46
Palmerston North BHS Biggest Win: 45-3, 1981, Won 51-10 in 2015.
Napier BHS Biggest Win: 43-14, 2002
Polson Banner last five matches:
2015: Palmerston North BHS 51 – Napier BHS 10
2016: Palmerston North BHS 17 – Napier BHS 17 (draw)
2017: Napier BHS 12 – Palmerston North BHS (10)
2018: Napier BHS 36 – Palmerston North BHS 19
2019: Palmerston North BHS 27 – Napier BHS 15
2019 Napier – Palmerston North sports exchange results included:
27-15 win to Palmerston North in First XV Rugby
45-12 PNBHS U14 Rugby
7-5 to Napier in Second XV Rugby
17-12 to Napier in Colts Rugby
19-12 to PNBHS in Third XV Rugby
10-1 to PNBHS Junior A Football
0-0 draw in Second XI Football
5-3 win to Palmerston North in First XI Football
21-0 win to Palmerston North in Colts Hockey
3-0 win to Palmerston North in 2nd XI Hockey
2-0 win to Napier in First XI Hockey
88-50 win to Palmerston North in Junior A Basketball
83-61 win to Napier in Premier A Basketball
Wins to Palmerston North in both Junior and Senior
Palmerston North 6.5 - 1.5
The Chiefs U18 Development squad to match up against the Crusaders and Blues Under 18 sides this Saturday, 13 July.
Team Messam will make the trip south to Blenheim to take on the Crusaders Under 18’s at Lansdowne Park. While Team Clarke will host the Blues Under 18’s at St Paul’s Collegiate. Both games will kick off at 12.30pm.
The teams are:
A curious thing happened when the Hurricanes Under-18 training squad was recently announced for their annual development camp in Napier.
Traditional powerhouses Wellington College and St Patrick’s College, Silverstream only had a single selection; Wellington loose forward Flynn Crampton.
Scots College haven’t won the Premiership since 2014, and accounted for eight of the 15 selections from the capital.
How can a school that has won just a solitary open weight title in the past four years (Scots second XV are the reigning Premier 4 champions) be so heavily represented in a major representative squad?
What’s going on in Wellington Secondary School rugby? Anecdotally, the standard of the First XV premiership is the worst it’s been. Numbers are falling in most grades and solutions for improvement aren’t necessarily straightforward.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is looking to implement a new governance structure for secondary school rugby (this year), to be followed by a new strategy (in 2020) to build player numbers.
Wellington provides a vivid insight into many of the challenges the game faces.
Rugby is decreasing in popularity. Since 2012, boys teams across Wellington have decreased by 18.3%, (minus 20 teams, or around minus 440 players). More alarmingly:
· Since 2012, open weight Premier teams have fallen by 19%, (minus 9 teams).
· Since 2012, non-Premier open weight age-grade teams have fallen by 47%, (minus 17 teams).
Tumbling numbers isn’t just a Wellington trend. Between 2013-2018, the number of teams in Auckland fell from 225 to 181. In North Harbour numbers are even more drastic, with a third of teams vanishing in the past five seasons.
Why are boys not playing rugby? The NZR Secondary Schools Rugby review identified several reasons, the most interesting of which are contained in a student feedback section and include:
The Wellington College First XV is suffering the worst run of results in its history. This season they are in grave danger of missing the top four of the Premiership for the first time.
In the past three years Wellington’s First XV have been the victims of record defeats against Hastings Boys’ High School, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, Scots College, Nelson College, Christ’s College, Feilding High School and Palmerston North Boys’ High School.
In the past five years Wellington has experienced embarrassing stumbles against Kapiti College, Hutt International Boys’ School and Wairarapa College.
Why should we be concerned? Wellington College is by some distance the capital's largest state boys school and therefore provides a vivid illustration of boys sporting preferences. Wellington has a national reputation for being traditionally powerful in rugby.
Wellington won the Premiership as recently as 2016, which might suggest Wellington is on a temporary rebuilding cycle. However, Wellington losing more games than it wins was almost unthinkable a few short years ago.
Despite having a relatively healthy 10 teams at present, closer inspection of the programme suggests a rapidly weakening First XV was only a matter of time.
Between 2010 and 2016, aside from the First XV, the only open weight title success was the Under-15A’s, which captured the Division I title in 2010.
Contrast that with St Pat’s Town who have won six open weight grades since 2014 and Silverstream, who have won a dozen.
Anecdotally, “small white boys from Khandallah and Kaori” are avoiding rugby like the plague and don’t have the size to compete at the heavier levels.
In 2018, Wellington enjoyed a very fruitful sporting year. Wellington are the national cricket, swimming and futsal champions; a staggering 576 boys play the latter code. Additionally, Wellington athletes won half a dozen medals at the National Track & Field Championships.
Rugby is no longer king at Col.
Non competitive Games
One of the arguments presented in favour of increasing the Premiership grade from eight teams to ten was to expose more players to the highest level and thus boost the standard and competitiveness of the competition. Despite honourable intentions, the opposite has proven true.
Between 2012 and 2016, just under half (84) of all Premiership fixtures were decided by 20 points or more.
Since expansion there have been 130 games of which 77 (59%) have been settled by 20 points or more. On top of that there have been two defaults and a century posted by St Pat’s Town.
This past weekend Kapti was beaten 106-3 by Silverstream in a nonsense of a contest in which Kapti left out half a dozen of their leading players, an acknowledgment they were beaten before they'd started. This Saturday, Hutt International Boys’ School will default their fixture against St Pat’s Town citing a “shortage of player numbers.”
Silverstream have won the Premiership the past two years by an average winning score of 53-7. When Silverstream won in 2012, their average winning score was 23-11. Granted Silverstream upset a formidable Wellington College outfit in the final, but even Wellington’s average winning score that year was only 26-7.
Unusually, between 2010-2015, the school which finished first in the round robin failed to win the Premiership.
The NZR Secondary Schools Rugby Review identified uncompetitive competitions as a major force for driving students away from the game. There were complaints being consistently beaten by large scores results in a loss of enjoyment and motivation.
The review also recommended NZR establishes a clear definition of which grades are considered performance grades, with all other grades recognised as existing primarily to maximise the appeal and benefit to participants.
The shape a ‘high performance’ grade would take is uncertain, but clearly the Wellington Premiership is drifting away from ‘high performance’ with so many one-sided games.
The Rise of Scots College
In 2009, Scots First XV lost to the Wellington College 2nd XV in the Premier II final. Five years later Scots were the National champions.
The only other team at the school to win a grade in that five year period was the 2nd XV who won the lowly Premier 5 grade in 2012 and Premier 4 the next season.
Since 2010, Scots have won a mere six College Sport Wellington grades.
How have Scots, with a small roll (slightly over 500) and little reputation for rugby, become such a force in the First XV Premiership?
The answer is simple: greater coaching resources and more rugby-playing students joining the school.
In 2014, eight players were on scholarship in the Scots starting XV that beat Silverstream 21-18 in the Premiership final.
Under current eligibility rules a First XV is allowed no more than five players that are “new to school.” A “new to school" tag is carried for two years, while internationals never shrug the title. Essentially, done methodically with enough planning and forethought, a third of your team can still be imported.
The best way to consistently build a powerful team with little strength below (Scots don’t even have an Under-15’s side) is to recruit by specific positions or attract top juniors and expose them to superior training while they effectively bide their time making the First XV.
There are, of course, benefits for some boys who gain scholarships, like receiving a better education and coaching. And universally chastising boys and their families for accepting scholarships is nothing more than petulant.
Perhaps the demands of a younger and more complex professional game necessitates programs like Scots. The expertise and resources to prepare players for the next level simply doesn't exist across multiple schools?
There is nothing in the present rules to prevent Scots or others (uninhibited from zoning laws, a whole separate issue) from constructing a First XV in an obviously top-down fashion.
However, having a side monopolise leading talent without any growth in the lower grades appears to harm the game. The NRZ Secondary Schools Rugby review identified scholarships as a factor in driving boys away from the sport.
Inexplicably Scots lost their points from a first round win against Rongotai College this season for erring in the number of “new school” players they had in the 22. This was a staggering oversight given Scots is coached by a paid Rugby Director whose a member of the Wellington Schools Secondary Schools Executive and New Zealand Schools coaching staff.
It’s interesting to note the tightening of eligibility rules in the 1A Auckland competition has had a noticeable impact on the competitiveness of the results.
In 2018, 62% of all games were decided by 20 points or more. After eight rounds this year that figure had dropped to 46%.
Ironically, Saint KentigernCollege, the target of much criticism for their flagrant poaching, suffered their first 20-plus point hiding in well over a decade when they were thumped 52-19 by King’s College, another school accused of overtly aggressive recruiting practices.
I changed "six" to "eight" here:
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