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.
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