The National First XV Top Four rugby tournament is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the New Zealand Secondary Schools sport calendar. This year’s event is held from September 2-4 at the New Zealand Rugby Institute in Palmerston North. Mount Albert Grammar School in the Blues region and Hastings Boys’ High School in the Hurricanes regions have been frighteningly good so far, but will their form continue into Term Three? Here is a wrap of what has happened so far.
The 1A competition in Auckland has two rounds left. Mount Albert Grammar School are the only team guaranteed a place in the semi-finals and only need two more points to qualify top. MAGS have won all nine games and have conceded a mere three tries. MAGS have scored a four try bonus point in every game. Their smallest margin of victory is 31-12 over Aorere College in Round 3, while they thrashed the previously unbeaten Sacred Heart College 34-11 last Saturday.
St. Kent’s (36), Sacred Heart (34), St. Peter’s (32), King’s (31) and De La Salle (27) are the only other contenders for the semi-finals.
St. Peter’s and Sacred Heart should qualify given their remaining games are against bottom fives sides. St. Peter’s finish with Dilworth and Kelston BHS while Sacred Heart face Aorere College and Auckland Grammar School.
St. Kent’s and King’s have tough runs home with games against De La Salle College and MAGS looming. De La Salle could sneak in with two wins, but a single defeat will see them eliminated. Five doesn’t go into four so St. Kent’s and King’s may be forced to beat MAGS if they want a chance and other results don’t go their way.
Several players have impressed in 1A this season. Caleb Fa’alili (De La Salle College), Carlos Price (St. Kentigern College), Ajay Mua (Kings College), Caleb Clarke and Rob Cobb (MAGS) and Jack McHugh (Sacred Heart College) are just a few flourish and earn Blues Under-18 selection.
In North Harbour Westlake Boys’ High School and Rosmini College are comfortably on top. They have played each other twice this season. Westlake won the first game 20-15, but Rosmini halfback Connor Leather kicked five penalties to win their recent Land Rover First XV clash 15-13. Whangarei Boys’ High School have given a decent account of themselves in their debut North Harbour season. They are fourth and have beaten all of the sides below them convincingly.
Some players to impress in North Harbour include the Inisi brothers, Fine and Lotu from Westlake. Vincent Tuitupou from Rosmini College, Scott Gregory from Whangarei BHS and Christian Lio-Willie from Massey HS.
It’s unlikely the North Harbour will trouble the Auckland winner for a Top Four place.
Hamilton BHS (Waikato), Wesley College (Counties) and New Plymouth BHS (Taranaki) are already guaranteed to take part in the Chiefs qualifying series while defending National Champions Rotorua BHS have to play Tauranga Boys’ College to determine the Bay of Plenty representative. Rotorua should win that match. Their record is a respectful 13-4 and they beat Tauranga 24-18 in Super 8, Tauranga have only won three games in 2016.
Hamilton are second in Super 8, but aren’t guaranteed to defend their title. They will need to beat Gisborne BHS and possibly top of the table Hastings BHS, away from home, to reach the final. Hamilton have lost two games in Super 8 for the first time since 2011, but have a 13-3 record and possibly remain the strongest team in the area, despite losing to New Plymouth BHS who have dropped three Super 8 games.
In the Central North Island competition St. Paul’s Collegiate are approaching three years unbeaten and will likely face the winner of the St. Peter’s Cambridge v Feilding fixture in the final. With three rounds to play the top four is: Feilding HS (24), St. Paul’s Collegiate (23), St. Peter’s (18) and Wanganui (15). Feilding has played an extra game. The top two teams go straight through to the final.
In the newly conceived Waikato/Counties competition St. John’s College are a perfect 5/5 and stunned St. Paul’s Collegiate and St. Peter’s College, Auckland this year. Manurewa are second and should earn top billing for the Counties Nationals co-ed place.
Some players to impress in the Chiefs regions include: Will Ngatai (Tauranga BC), Kaleb Trask (Rotorua BHS), Tom Florence (New Plymouth BHS), Jackson Morgan (St Paul’s Collegiate), Nakoa Marcroft (St John’s College) and Patrick McCurran (Hamilton BHS).
Hastings Boys’ High School are clearly the best team in the Hurricanes region. They beat all top four sides in Wellington by more than 20 points, thrashed Rotorua BHS 39-12 and have a faultless record in Super 8, scoring four tries or more in every game. On form it would be a major shock if Hastings don’t make it to the National Top Four.
In Wellington the quarter final line-up has been resolved. Third placed Scots College will face sixth placed Wairarapa College while St. Pats Silverstream will host Rongotai College in the battle for fourth and fifth. The top two teams, Wellington College and St. Pats Town have earned that weekend off.
Wellington is an even competition. Wellington only beat Town by four points, Scots by six points and Silverstream by three points. Finishing first has been a poisoned chalice with the last six round robin winners losing the final.
There is some outstanding talent in the Hurricanes region including: Tyler Symon -Burke (Gisborne BHS), Tim Farrell (Napier BHS), Liam Bauckman (Hastings BHS), Folou Fakatava (Hastings BHS), Roy Maiava (Bishop Viard College) and Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Wellington College).
In the Otago schools competition John McGlashan College have scored 689 points in 11 games and should win the championship. They beat second-placed Waitaki BHS 52-5. The top two teams from the schools’ grade playoff against Otago BHS and Southland BHS for a top four place. Otago BHS and Southland BHS have played twice and shared victories. Otago beat Christchurch BHS 43-19 away from home which might suggest they are the slightly stronger team in the Highlanders region.
The UC Championship is set for an exciting climax. Christ’s College and Christchurch BHS should finish 1&2. However the Top Four is not clear as the table below illustrates.
Nelson have a bye to come, but the Moascar Cup holders host bottom placed sides Roncalli College and Lincoln HS in the last round so should get through. Shirley BHS will have to win at least one of their last three games against Christchurch BHS, Christ’s College and Waimea Combined to get through. Waimea’s remaining fixtures are also include matches against Rangiora High School and Timaru Boys’ High School. Even Marlborough Boys’ College could still make the semi’s, but that would require something of a miracle.
Players to standout in the UC Championship include Kale Thatcher (Christ’s College), Ben Donkers (Christ’s College), Will Havili (Nelson College), Logan Bell (Shirley Boys’ High School) and Thomas Edwards (Timaru Boys’ High School).
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