Twelve months after the heartache of losing the decider, Hastings Boys High School finally claimed their maiden National Championship, lifting the Barbarians Cup on Sunday. Winning 25-17 over Chiefs regional winners Hamilton Boys High, Hastings take out Top Four Championship in an absorbing final.
It was the final that most expected to see, with the pair arguably head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition in 2017. A year where they had already met twice before, including the final of their Super Eight Schools competition.
The Boys final was held along with the Girls Top Four final on Sunday. St Mary’s College showing they had learned from last years setback, while the Co-ed schools final was won by St Peter’s College, in a wonderful weekend for Schools First XV’s rugby.
Hastings Take Out Top Four Schools Championship
Both sides suffered a setback before kick-off, as Hastings’ Folau Fokatava (for the second year in succession) and Hamilton’s Quin Tupaea were ruled out with injuries suffered in their respective semi-final wins.
But not to be upset, the sides ran out under clear skies but with a breezy southerly blowing and soggy underfoot conditions at the Sport & Rugby Institute at Palmerston North’s Massey University grounds.
Hastings made the perfect start when winger Kini Naholo (younger brother of All Black winger Waisake) scored his 41st try of the year, benefiting from terrific vision from first-five Lincoln McClutchie. Hamilton were able to avoid incurring anything further during the early barrage, and with the wind at their backs gradually took the upper hand. First-five Coby Miln opened their account with a penalty, before winger Josh Calvert crossed after some impressive work from the forwards.
When Miln added two more penalties, Hamilton were up 14-5 and there was a whiff of an upset in the air. Despite this being the biggest deficit that Hastings had faced at any point all year, the confident side were undaunted. By halftime, they were back in front through a Danny Toala (see main picture) penalty and then a try through Fokatava’s replacement at halfback, Shamara Brooks.
The second half was close-quarter stuff, played between the 22 meter lines as neither side could get their outside players into space. Hamilton took the lead back through a penalty, only to surrender it soon afterwards to one themselves; but with just a point in it, an error either way could have proven catastrophic.
It wasn’t until the last two minutes that the decisive moment came, when tighthead prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe bashed his way over, with Toala’s conversion putting the game out of reach.
NZ 1st XV champions, Hastings Boys' High School pic.twitter.com/Rgu2c3Sigc
Hastings become 13th side to go unbeaten in Top Four Championship
Both schools can expect to see a number of their players named in the NZ Schools and Barbarians sides in coming days [see below page]. McClutchie and Toala were standouts for Hastings, Tevita-Metcalfe’s try was just reward for an immense effort. Alongside skipper Kianu Kereru-Symes, who was forced off early in last year’s final, but this time made a critical midfield turnover to start the ball rolling for the game-winning try.
As they did in their semifinal, loose forwards Tevita Fa’ukafa and Charles Alaimalo led the way for Hamilton. While centre Tauterangimarie Kapea tried magnificently to do both his work and that of the missing Tupaea.
Road to the Boys 2017 Final
The two sides met after relatively contrasting routes to the final. Hastings overcame Auckland and Blues winners St Kentigern’s 29-10, while Hamilton made Southland Boys High endure an even more miserable time than last year where the southerners were hammered 41-0 by Mount Albert Grammar, with Hamilton winning 49-0 with Emoni Narawa notching a hat-trick.
Third Place for St Kentigern’s College
In the battle for third St Kent’s beat Southland 21-3. Although worthy winners of the South Island place after wins over Otago (twice) and Christchurch Boys High’s, the fact that they’ve been outmatched two successive years must raise some alarm bells about the level of play south of Cook Strait, with the South Island winner not making the final since 2007.
Girls Final a Celebration of High Standards
Like Hastings, Wellington school St Mary’s College rebounded from losing last year’s final to take the Hine Pounamu Trophy as the best Girls side in the country, besting Hamilton Girls High 29-12.
St Mary’s sprung one surprise in their line-up, with usual number eight Dhys Faleafaga – one of two members of the full Wellington women’s squad in the side – starting in midfield alongside Ainselyana Pulieta who missed Friday’s semi-final due to her netball commitments; and together pair nullified Hamilton’s best attacking threat; in their captain Jazmin Hotham.
Playing with the wind, the Wellington side opened the scoring through winger Te Araroa Sopoaga – younger sister of All Black Lima – before Hamilton answered back through Paj Walker. However Pulieta and Faleafaga showed their dominance by both crossing before the interval, putting St Mary’s 17-5 up. A fourth try to prop Marianne Leota increased the margin before Hamilton swiftly replied through Lena Mitchell. The game was put beyond doubt, when Pulieta found a gap to grab her double.
Road to the Girl’s 2017 Final
St Mary’s had to work hard on Friday to push past Blues winners Southern Cross 22-17, while like their boys counterparts Hamilton hammered their opposition blitzing defending champions Southland Girls 51-12.
Southland Girls would rebound, to win the playoff for third by 14-5.
Co-Educational Final One Way Traffic
In between these two finals two Central North Island competition rivals played for the Co-ed title, and it was largely one-way traffic as Chiefs winners St Peter’s Cambridge comprehensively beat defending champions Feilding High School 31-3.
St Peter’s led 17-3 at the break through tries to Devin Gregory, PJ Latu, and Kaea Hongara, and proved too tough for Feilding to crack even when reduced to 13 players for a period in the second half.
St Peter’s kept the scoreboard ticking over through penalties, before one of those players earlier yellow carded, Sean Chenery, crossed in the last moments.
Road to the Co-ed School’s 2017 Final
The pair met after racking up big semi-final wins. St Peter’s smoked South Island winners St Andrews 48-15 after leading 41-0 before the Christchurch school scored a trio of consolation efforts, while Feilding dealt to Blues winners Rangitoto College by 46-3.
The two beaten sides regrouped for Sunday’s third place playoff. In an entertaining match, the 27-17 result was in favour of St Andrew’s.
All the boys and competing this weekend, also had an eye on further representative honours. This would reward many with places in squads that include NZ Schools and the NZ Barbarians side.
New Zealand Schools Development Camp
Secondary School players from across New Zealand have today been named to attend the 2017 Schools Development Camp. 49 young athletes will attend the three-day camp in late September.
New Zealand Schools coach Jason Holland congratulated all players selected and commented on a strong schools’ rugby season.
Fresh off victory at the National Top Four championships, Hastings Boys’ High School has nine players selected, and is one of 24 schools represented.
Find the full squad here.
New Zealand Schools v Fiji Schools, Sydney
New Zealand Barbarians Schools v Tonga Schools, Palmerston North
New Zealand Schools v Australian Schools Barbarians, Sydney
New Zealand Barbarians Schools v New Zealand Maori Under 18s, Palmerston North
New Zealand Schools v Australian Schools, Sydney
“Main photo credit”
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