For the first time since 2003 Christ's College will contest the annual quadrangular final after scoring an impressive 41-11 victory over Moascar Cup holders Nelson College.
It's first time since 2004 Nelson will not feature in the final after they suffered their largest defeat to Christ's since a 39-3 hiding in 1977. This match also doubled as a UC Championship fixture.
Christ's will tackle Wellington College in the decider after Wellington battled to an 18-8 victory against a tenacious Wanganui Collegiate.
It was the closest match between those schools since the 2004 final which Wellington won 23-16.
Wellington College: 18 (La'au Finau, Junior Foaitua tries; Reece Plumtree 2 pen, 1 con) Wanganui Collegiate: 8 (Tom Matthews try; Cody Hemi 1 pen)
Wellington College is into the final for a 19th consecutive year after a far from convincing win against Wanganui Collegiate. Wellington started brightly enough when bulky second-five La'au Finau broke multiple tackles and burst away to score, but poor ball security and curious option taking would hinder Wellington for much of the game. Breaks by Finau and fullback Reece Plumtree should have led to further first-half tries, but the opportunities were squandered.
Wanganui was effective at isolating Wellington's runners and winning turnovers at the ruck. First-five Cody Rei kicked a 40-metre penalty to make it 5-3. Wanganui lost two try scoring chances in the first-half. Wing Harry Symes dropped a pin-point cross kick with just the try line ahead and fullback Tom Matthews shelled a pass from hooker Joe Hazelhurst while sprinting into the clear.
A Plumtree penalty edged Wellington ahead 8-3 at halftime.
Finau caused constant concern for the Wanganui defence and early in the second-half he broke again only for the last pass to drift astray. Plumtree then breached the Wanganui defence and put No.8 Junior Foaitua in for a try. Plumtree converted and a short while later added a penalty to make it 18-3.
Wanganui continued to hustle Wellington into mistakes and started to win a consistent supply of ball. Matthews scored a try to reduce the deficit to 18-8. Wanganui forced Wellington to defend for most of the final ten minutes, but was unable to add to their score despite a lofty penalty count in their favour.
For Wanganui Matthews and Hazelhurst (despite some wobbly throws) had strong games. Openside Angus Taylor and No.8 Finau Nimatasu were a pain for Wellington College as well. For Wellington lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi impressed, tighthead Qualen Asi was busy and Finau their biggest threat out wide.
Christ's College: 41 (Isaiah Punivai 2, Jayden Beckett, Ngane Punivai, Kale Thatcher, Reilly Cormack tries; Cormack 4 con, 1 pen) Nelson College: 11 (Karl Ratcliffe try; William Havili 2 pen)
Christ's College produced a clinical display to bank five UC Championship points and a rare place in the final. Christ's dominance was apparent from the outset. They led 22-6 at halftime and added three more tries in the second-half, before Nelson bagged a late consolation try.
Christ's forwards were quick to gain control in the set piece and their quick recycling of the ball allowed the backs to play with width and authority.
Wing Isaiah Punivai scored the first try after a break by No.8 Kale Thatcher. Thatcher was a dominant figure making several breaks, another of which led to his own try. Christ's scored a third try just before the break when second-five Dalls McLeod bulled his way through the Nelson midfield and went to ground just short of the Nelson line. A few rucks later and Punivai collected a double.
Nelson first-five William Havili kicked two long range penalties in the opening quarter to keep Nelson in touch, but when Ngane Punivai scored a 60-metre try at the start of the second-half Nelson's prospects of winning were well and truly dashed. Christ's cleared the bench and their last try was a clear illustration in the difference of class between the two sides today.
Angus Gray cross-kicked for fullback Reilly Cormack to catch and score unopposed. Nelson was well below their best, Christ's is a serious shot of winning on Wednesday. Other standouts for the hosts included lock Ben Chamberlain and hooker Jonathon Gemmell.
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