Napier Boys’ High School retained the Polson Banner with a 27-17 away victory over Palmerston North Boys’ High School on Wednesday afternoon.
An overwhelming display of first half forward power paved the way to victory for Napier. The visitors collected all their points in the opening stanza and tellingly three tries were scored by forwards.
The kick-off was tipped by Napier openside Max Ratcliffe and the Napier forwards bullied their way inside the 22 with a well organised sequence of 10 phases. A penalty handy to the posts was slotted by halfback Cory Berkett.
Palmerston North responded swiftly with a bust by impressive second-five Leo Gordon. A 32-metre penalty followed by fullback Curtis Heaphy and it was 3-3.
The belligerent Napier forwards soon arrested control and the first try was scored from a lineout drive by hooker Tyrone Crystal - a mini-tank version of former Napier Boys’ turned Wellington Lions hooker Tyrone Thompson.
It was fitting a lineout drive was the source of a try. Napier employed the maul with relentless precision. In the second half when Palmerston North threatened to rally it was the drive that buried that possibility.
Jared Martin scored the second try on the left wing after a skip pass by Berkett avoided two players and found the unmarked lossehead. Such was the force of the Napier drive Martin had actually withdrawn from the most recent maul and positioned himself for a short-side carry.
Tighthead colleague Gus Brown was named man of the match for his bustle and industry.
Ratcliffe would profit next from Napier’s suffocating strategy. Palmerston North were enveloped in tight, leaving space out wide for Napier to claim a 24-3 lead in as many minutes.
It could have been worse for Palmerston North. However, Napier showed mercy with a close range penalty to first-five Tim Slabberook, making it 27-3 at the interval.
Napier was guilty of falling asleep at the start of the second half.
In the 40th minute the determined Gordon flashed off the right foot and beat two defenders to touch down under the sticks. When Slabberook was yellow-carded for accidentally knocking his opponent in the face, the pair were contesting a high-kick, Palmerston North was rejuvenated. Reserve prop Javahn Stevenson smashed over to reduce the margin to 27-15 with 17 minutes left. Heaphy added the extras from the sideline.
Napier mauled Palmerston North from their own ten-metre mark to within a whisker of the paint with two lineout drives. With such overt ascendancy Napier weren’t likely losers, despite a valiant effort from Palmerston North, especially blindside and skipper Joe Simpson-Smith,
Napier coach Brendan Ratcliffe declared his teams’ performance their “best half of the season” and warned “his team can play.” Napier finished Super 8 with three wins and will host Palmerston North (two Super 8 wins) in a Hurricanes Regional National Top Four qualifying playoff on August 21.
About the Polson Banner
The Polson Banner is one of the oldest interschool rugby trophies up for grabs in New Zealand. It was first played for in 1907 but "back dated" to 1904 to record all of the fixtures between the schools.
The original silk banner was donated by the 1902-12 NBHS headmaster, A.S. Polson, and has the colours and the crest of the two respective schools on the reverse sides. The scores for each year's match has been embroidered on the banner over the years.
Polson Banner Statistics
Palmerston North BHS Won: 64
Napier BHS Won: 48
Palmerston North BHS Biggest Win: 45-3, 1981, Won 51-10 in 2015.
Napier BHS Biggest Win: 50-21, 2020
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