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.
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