Hamilton Girls’ High School were the top girls secondary school team in the country last year, defending their National Top Four title in September and winning the Condor Sevens in December for the third straight year.
Fellow Chiefs region school Tauranga Girls’ College (TGC) recently defeated Hamilton Girls’ High School (HGHS) in a thriller. Secondary school girls’ rugby is on the rise and TGC is part of this. We caught up with TGC’s co-coach Jeff Robb on the team’s recent win over the national champions and the growth of TGC rugby.
College Sport Media: Please give us a run down on the game against HGHS that TGC won 36-34?
Jeff Robb: The match was a fantastic game to watch with both teams playing with commitment and skill. HGHS took the early lead with a well taken try by centre Jasmine Hotham (daughter of Nigel Hotham who is the Hamilton BHS’s First XV coach). Soon after they pressured the TGC line again and converted a penalty. TGC responded soon after with a well worked forwards try. This punch and counter punch countinued with the teams turning at halftime with TGC leading 17-15.
Early in the second half HGHS pressured TGC into mistakes and Jasmine Hotham was once again to the fore scoring a couple of quick tries helped to push HGHS out to a comanding lead. TGC once again worked their way back into the game with some strong carries by No. 8 Sela Moataane and with seven minutes left TGC trailed 22-34. TGC never gave up and scored two tries in the last few minutes to winger Piatarihingamare Devon. One of them was the last movement of the game, an 80 metre breakout try which first five-eighth Hope Garner held her nerve to convert and put TGC in front with the final 36-34 score line.
The key factor was self belief and realising that they could compete with the national champions. A never say die attitude and confidence in themselves which comes from all the hard work that they have been putting in.
CSM: Is this a new fixture against HGHS?
JR: This is the first time that this match has been played. Every year in the final week of Term 2, TGC and HGHS have a traditional sports exchange. In the past rugby has never been played as the standard of the TGC rugby team was not up to delivering a worthwhile game. This year we asked if we could play to assess where we are sitting with our development.
CSM: What’s the qualifying process to reach this year’s Top Four tournament?
JR: We have to win the BoP Championship final, which is on 13 August. Then if we are successful we will have to play the top qualifier from the Waikato area on 20 August to see who qualifies for the Top Four from the Chiefs area. It runs along the same lines as the boys First XV qualifiers. So we could have a rematch with HGHS.
CSM: TGC is currently a front runner in the Bay of Plenty Secondary Schoolgirls competition?
JR: We are leading that, so we’re hoping to continue our good form and playing the second placed team in the BOPSS final on 13 August. The five teams in the Baywide Premier grade are: TGS, Trident/Opotiki, Taupo Nui A Tia, Rotorua Girls and Te Puke. Games are played home and away with the top two at the end of the rounds playing in the final.
CSM: Traditionally, who are the strong schools in BoP secondary schoolgirls rugby?
JR: Over the last few years Opotiki has been the stand out team representing the BoP at the Top 4 qualifiers. Te Puke had a good year last year, losing the BOPSS final to Opotiki but winning through to the semi-finals at the National Condor 7s. Rotorua Girls have a good young team this year and have given us a couple of good games.
CSM: How long has the TGC team been together?
JR: This is the second year for the majority of these players. We played for the first time as a team last year but finished fourth in the BOPSS competition. This was a huge improvement on the year before where the TGC team didn’t win a game all season. We were lucky enough to finish second at the BOPSS 7s behind Te Puke and when a team pulled out of the Condors tournament we were invited to attend and finished 7/8th, losing in the quarter finals to Te Puke once again.
We are still a relatively young side. We only have two Year 13’s, with the majority being a good mix of Year 11’s and 12’s.
CSM: What are the strengths of the TGC team?
JR: We have a balanced side where we have some hard working forwards especially openside flanker Teagan Meyer who is only a Year 10, and our ball carrying No. 8 Sela Moataane. Our backs are also quite skilled both defensively and attack wise with speed coming on the wing with Piatarihingamare Devon.
CSM: Are any players in the Bay of Plenty representative system?
JR: There are about eight players who made the BOPSS U18’s this week. If some of the other girls didn’t have other commitments we could have has a couple more make the team as well. Piatarihingamare is also in the Northern Region U18 7’s squad.
CSM: Are there any players excelling in other sports?
JR: Our second five-eighth, Jade Tuilaepa, is a National Judo Champion and represented NZ at Oceania competitions. She is hoping one day to represent NZ at the Commonwealth games or Olympics in either Judo or 7’s.
Lock Holly Topp plays Cricket for Northern Districts School Girls in the summer.
CSM: You came on board at the start of last year to help with the TGC 7’s programme?
JS: Yes and our XV’s team has grown from our 7’s programme. I joined at the start of last year to help with the 7’s programme and get the girls competitive for the North Island Championships that are held in the Summer Sports week. We came fourth at that tournament and this increased the interest of the girls. They didn’t have a XV’s coach so I offered to help. I asked a mate, Leo Scott, who I have done a lot of coaching with in the past to help out and he was keen to join.
Not all girls stayed on for the XV’s season as some returned to netball, basketball and football.
After the XV’s season. All girls returned for the 7’s season. The girls who played another sport during winter saw how much the XV’s girls had developed and enjoyed themselves, that they wanted to work hard and stay on and try XV’s this year. Hence our good result at the Condors last year.
At the start of this year we once again started with 7’s and went to the Sir Gordon Teitjens 7s tournament run by Manawatu Rugby Union. We performed well, finishing fourth behind Hamilton Girls, Feilding and St Mary’s from Wellington.
We worked hard over the next few weeks as we knew we would meet these teams again at the North Island Secondary Schools 7s. Here we beat Feilding High School to top our pool. We won through to the final where we once again met HGHS. The final was an intense affair with the teams locked at 12-all at full time. We went to extra time but no team could break the deadlock. We scored the first try in the final so were awarded winners. It is not the best way to win a final but the recognition was great for the girls knowing the effort they had put in to get there.
This was great for those players who usually played another winter sport as they have stayed on this year to play XV’s which has made our team stronger and more skilful.
We are hoping to qualify for Condors at the end of the year and will be giving it our best shot to win.
The Tauranga Girls’ College squad is:
1. Angel Hira-Mulu (Captain)
2. Phabian Patrick
3. Rose Togatogarua
4. Harmony Hunapo
5. Holly Topp
6. Siobhan Stumpp
7. Teagan Meyer
8. Sela Moataane
9. Savannah Hinga-Miller
10. Hope Garner
11. Angel Haeata-Burrows
12. Jade Tuilaepa
13. Bree Meyer
14. Piatarihingamare Devon
15. Hinemokai Grey
16. Jing Yong
17. Aria Hunapo
18. Lesley McGillicuddy
19. Tihema Eades
20. Praise Peters
21. Lala Moataane
22. Aki Laula
23. Laurene Walker
Coaches: Jeff Robb and Leo Scott
Managers: Te Rangimarie Hamiora and Kaye Barnett
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