Mount Albert Grammar School: 41 (Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa 2, John Latu Thomas Barlow, Niven Longopoa, Isaiah Papali'i, Kahu Boyd tries; Longopoa 1 pen, Oliver Shepherd 1 pen) Southland BHS: 0
Mount Albert Grammar School have stormed into their third National Top Four final after a record 41-0 win against Southland Boys' High School.
Since the inception of the tournament in 1982 the biggest winning margin previously was 39 points when Kelston Boys' High School beat Wellington College 46-7 in the third-placed game in 1998.
Remarkably, MAGS missed all seven conversions and bombed another four tries in an imperious display. MAGS established their authority from the outset when they mauled 35-metres from a lineout. Southland did well to hold MAGS to only 3-0 after 15 minutes. Hooker Oliver Shepherd opened the scoring with a penalty and Southland's wing Ben Pope and first-five Mitchell Taylor made breaks that forced MAGS to scramble.
MAGS fullback Niven Longopoa looked to inject himself from the back and in the 16th minute he broke from his own 22 to send Southland into retreat. Quick hands by wing Patrick Pati and second-five Kahurangi Morehu saw No.8 John Latu score the first try. Halfback Salyn Tonu'u kept the defence guessing with his snips and a breakout from the kickoff created a second try for lock Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa.
At 13-0 the floodgates opened. Reidlinger-Kapa illustrated his quality by grabbing a double. Openside Isaiah Papali'i was a human wrecking ball and was rewarded for his industry with a try as was the lively Longopoa. Even the reserve forwards joined the party with substitute hooker Kahu Boyd having the final say. This performance was about as good as it gets from MAGS. Southland lacked relative size, but not heart. Skipper Flynn Thomas pulled off two try-saving tackles and should reclaim his New Zealand School's jersey.
However history speaks for itself in this game. Southland Boys' was beaten 53-18 by Gisborne BHS in the third-placed game in 1993 and 26-0 by Napier BHS in the equivalent fixture in 2001. Wellington College (2000), Rotorua BHS (2006) and St. Bede's College (2009) are the only other teams to be held scoreless in a top four match.
Hastings BHS: 18 (Donovan Mataira, Hunter Marsh tries; Danny Toala 2 pen, 1 con) Hamilton BHS: 10 (Kieran Lee try; Joshua Moorby 1 con, 1 pen)
Hastings Boys' High School will contest their first ever National Top Four final after overcoming a tenacious Hamilton in the semi-finals.
Hamilton became the first team to lead Hastings at halftime in 2016, but it wasn't enough to tame the Super 8 champions. The game was on a knife-edge for most of the second-half. After 62 minutes Hastings led 13-10 when they conceded a penalty 35-metres out from goal. Fullback Joshua Moorby lined up a kick to draw Hamilton level, but nudge ahead on the first try wins rule. The ball cannoned off the left hand upright and was cleared to safety by Hastings.
With three minutes remaining Hastings won a penalty and kicked inside the Hamilton 22. The Hastings forwards drove without mercy towards the line and eventually space opened up for centre Trent Hape to secure victory. Hastings started brightly when fullback Danny Toala kicked two penalties to establish a 6-0 lead. The fleet-footed attack of first-five Lincoln McClutchie caused concern for the Hamilton defence which was resolute.
Hamilton wing Kieran Lee accelerated into a yawing hole to score the first try and Hamilton led 10-6 at halftime when Moorby added a conversion and a penalty. The margin for error was small as both teams fought desperately for territory and an edge at the brutal breakdowns. Hastings secured a lead they never lost with about 20 minutes to go when Hamilton conceded a penalty at the ruck and another one for backchat. Hastings advanced into the 22 and an unstoppable maul saw blindside Hunter Marsh crash over.
Prop Kianu Kereru-Symes, lock Tane Hohipa, openside Xavier Hill and McClutchie (who switched to halfback late in the game) were among the pick of the Hastings players For Hamilton lock Hadleigh Morgan, No.8 Patrick McCurran and centre Quinn Tupaea stood tall in a shattering defeat.
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