The final act of the 2017 College rugby year will be played out this weekend, with the Youthtown Condor Sevens, being hosted again by Auckland’s Sacred Heart College. If its speedsters, steppers, and heavy hitters you’re looking for, that’ll be the place to find them.
32 Boys teams from across the country will line up, while the Girls field has again been expanded slightly to 24 teams. With the Under 15 tournament that precedes it now a two day event in its own right and containing 32 Boys (again including a team from the Cook Islands) and 16 Girls teams as well, over 100 teams and about 1200 players will be on the field over the four days.
The first question in the Boys field is can anyone stop Hamilton Boys’ High School making it a three-peat, having won the last title played at Kelston and the first at Sacred Heart. The obvious challenger to their crown is the school that beat them in the National XV’s final – Hastings Boys’ High School – who will be themselves looking to atone for last year’s disappointment where they failed to top their pool on day one and didn’t even progress through to the Cup rounds.
The rest of the field you could throw a blanket over with no shortage of teams that will fancy their own chances. Feilding High School were runners-up last year but might find things more difficult without someone of the caliber of Vilimoni Koroi in their ranks this time, Kelston Boys put a disappointing 1A XV’s season behind them to win the Auckland qualifier, while hosts Sacred Heart and Liston and Aorere Colleges are also threats from the big city.
From further afield Bay of Plenty trio Tauranga Boys, Rotorua Boys, and Western Heights could loom as threats, along with Wellington winners Scots College who return after failing to qualify for the past two nationals. The South Island is represented by a quintet of teams - Moascar Cup holders Nelson College, UC runners-up Timaru Boys, St Bede’s, St Peter’s Gore, and Kings High - that will look to upsets the odds and join the now-defunct Aranui High as the only mainland winners of the title.
The 32-team format is unforgiving, as –as Hastings Boys found out last year – there’s no real second chance if a team drops a game in pool play as time and the limited number of fields seemingly preclude a series of crossover playoffs.
The girl’s field is headlined by the four schools that made it through to the Top Four earlier in the year. Wellington’s St Mary’s won that and are defending champions here so wear the favourites tag, but Hamilton Girls – runners up both times – will be looking to finally get one over the side from the capital. Southland Girls and Auckland’s Southern Cross were the other top four schools and each have the sort of talent that puts the title within reach.
Other sides that bear watching however include Christchurch Girls who include Canterbury women’s rep Grace Brooker in their squad, along with another South Island team in Motueka High, while other sides to keep an eye on are Helensville’s Kaipara College, Auckland’s Howick College and Trident High from Whakatane, while a dark house could be Manawatu’s Manukura school who pushed St Mary’s in their Hurricanes XV’s final back in August.
The Girls format isn’t quite as ruthless as the Boys as two teams that finish second in their pool will also make it through to the Cup rounds. That however would seem to be leaving things to chance, and topping the pool remains the only way to assure passage to the top eight for day two.
Senior Tournament Pools:
Pool A – Hamilton Boys (Wkt), Massey HS (NH), Wesley College (C-M), Te Puke HS (BoP)
Pool B – Feilding HS (Man), Timaru Boys (SthCan), Manurewa HS (C-M), Western Heights HS (BoP)
Pool C – Tauranga BC (BoP), Hastings BHS (HB), Botany College (Akl), St Peters, Gore (Sth)
Pool D – Rotorua BHS (BoP), Francis Douglas (Tar), Napier BHS (HB), Cambridge HS (Wkt)
Pool E – Sacred Heart, Auckland (Akl), Kerikeri HS (Nth), St Bedes (Can), Kings HS (Ota)
Pool F – Liston College (Akl), Aorere College (Akl), Alfriston College (Akl), New Plymouth BHS (Tar)
Pool G – Scots College (Wel), Nelson College (Tas), Rangitoto College (NH), Otahuhu College (Akl)
Pool H – Kelston BHS (Akl), Rongotai College (Wel), Pakuranga College (Akl), Thames HS (TV)
Pool I – St Mary’s (Wel), Trident HS (BoP), Mt Roskill Grammar (Akl), Sacred Heart, NP (Tar)
Pool J – Hamilton GHS (Wkt), Bay of Islands College (Nth), Otahuhu College (Akl), Aotea College (Wel)
Pool K – Southland GHS (Sth), New Plymouth GHS (Tar), Mt Albert Grammar (Akl), St Margaret’s (Can)
Pool L – Motueka HS (Tas), Southern Cross (Akl), Cambridge HS (Wkt), Manurewa HS (C-M)
Pool M – Howick College (Akl), Manukura (Man), Rotorua GHS (BoP), Long Bay College (NH)
Pool N – Christchurch GHS (Can), Aorere College (Akl), Gisborne GHS (PB), Kaipara College (NH)
There are a number of schools that, despite having qualified, aren’t at the Condors with the travel and accommodation costs and the clash of dates with the Athletics nationals the main factors. That group includes boy’s qualifiers Mt Albert Grammar, Westlake Boys, Gisborne Boys, Whangarei Boys, and Wanganui Collegiate, along with, surprisingly, perennial contenders Feilding High in the girls.
Pool play starts at 9.30am on Saturday with the last games at 4.30pm. The Girls Cup final is at 4pm on Sunday, with the Boys Cup final following immediately afterwards.
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