Christ's College: 24 (Kale Thatcher, Kaveni Balenacagi tries; Reilly Cormack 4 pen, 1 con) Wellington College: 19 (Josh Morgan-Ranui, Ish Perkins, Reece Plumtree tries; Plumtree 2 con)
For the first time since 2002 Christ's College are the annual quadrangular champions after defeating Wellington College in a gripping decider in Christchurch today. Christ's playing in their first final since 2003 achieved just their second victory against Wellington since 1985. The last time Wellington lost consecutive finals was in 1991.
The lead changed hands four times as both teams produced an entertaining and tough spectacle. Christ's defense was non-existent in the opening minute. Wellington second-five Stone Warren-Robinson crashed through the midfield and created a try for fullback Josh Morgan-Ranui. Christ's had a lot of success pilfering kick offs and a steal allowed Christ's to work themselves into a position for a kickable penalty which fullback Reilly Cormack duly slotted, 5-3.
Christ's sought territory and Wellington centre Reece Plumtree was forced to make a hurried clearance from his goal line. The ball was charged down by Christ's No.8 Kale Thatcher who won the scramble for possession. There was some doubt about the legitimacy of the try with Wellington protesting its rewarding staunchly. Cormack converted and it was 10-5 to the hosts. Christ's centre and captain Ngane Punivai was a major influence on the match. He broke through the Wellington defense and looked certain to score until he was sliced down in a thrilling tackle by No.8 Junior Foaitua. Wellington was pinged four times for holding on at the ruck and lacked patience with ball in hand.
Cormack kicked two more penalties and it was 16-5 at halftime. Wellington attacked early in the second-half and Christ's were punished when a shallow clearance by Cormack was caught on the full by Morgan-Ranui. Morgan-Ranui linked with lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi who threw a 20-meter cut out pass to Plumtree who sailed into a hole and put winger Ish Perkins over the line. Plumtree converted and it was 16-12.
ellington took a 19-16 lead when first-five Toko Sopoaga dummied and dashed into a gap to create a converted try for Plumtree under the sticks. Wellington fumbled the kick-off and the assured kicking of Cormack allowed Christ's to level. Punivai is in his third year of First XV rugby and his second as Christ's captain. His leadership and class was obvious in the last ten minutes. With about five minutes left he made a 20-meter break and passed to blindside Kaveni Balenacagi on the wing for what proved to be the winning try. In the last play of the game he tackled Plumtree around the bootlaces in a textbook tackle as the latter threatened to slip away. Thatcher, lock Ben Chamberlain and loose head Taine Hintz, whose duel with Qualen Asi was immense, were huge contributors for Christ's.
Wellington's players were distraught at fulltime. To a man they plummeted to their knees. The delirious Christ's supporters who invaded the field on the echo of the referee's whistle were forced to hurdle the spent warriors. Today Christ's jumped over a major hurdle.
Meanwhile Nelson College finished third defeating Wanganui Collegiate 29-17. Nelson led 17-0 at halftime before Wanganui pulled it back to 22-12. Nelson scored again, but a tenacious Wanganui had the last say. It was a scrappy match that never soared to great heights. Nelson's tries were scored by Sosefo Vaka (2), William Havili, Leicester Faingaanuku and Zane Archer. Wanganui's tries were scored Cody Hemi, Luke Foster and James Davis.
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