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Rugby 1st XV Boys
Photo by Photolife

Rugby Boys 1st XV

Mr M Ealey & Mr W Taylor —

The 2018 Burnside High School 1st XV played a total of 13 games in a rain-affected season, winning seven, losing four and drawing two.

 In addition to the relative success on the field, the players bonded well, clearly enjoying each other’s company. The squad was a good group of lads, who made the team management proud of them at every turn. There was much positive comment from referees and those on the sidelines about how our young men carried themselves on the field. Receptive to all that the coaches offered, by mid-way through the season the boys had a good grip on our attack shape and the game plan in general. Their desire to play expansive rugby from all over the field meant that the issue of “area management” remained a work-in-progress more or less right to the end of the season. Nevertheless, spectators often commented that they could see what our players were trying to do and in terms of approach, the Burnside H.S. 1st XV certainly played an attractive style.

Tom Henderson was a well-liked and capable captain, ably supported by Nick Smith as vice-captain. (Both Tom and Nick were selected for the Canterbury Metro U18 Cavaliers representative team). Senior 1st XV players lock Kyle Gullery, scrumhalf Lucas Parry, second-five Ofa Puleiku and prop Steve Pepese all contributed greatly to the team’s cohesion staying as strong as it did through a season in which playing numbers were a challenge most weeks.

In addition to two pre-season victories against touring teams from Japan and Australia, the highlights of the season were the solid victories against the 2nd XVs of traditional boys’ schools - St Bede’s College, Shirley BHS and Christ’s College. The 34-34 draw in the last round-robin game against Section 1 champion CBHS “Blue” 3rd XV definitely reflected the strength of this year’s 1st XV on its day.

An indication of the character of the boys involved was the fact that players were always prepared to play positions beyond their preference. Captain Tom Henderson played prop, lock and flanker. Without a word of complaint, “Mr Versatile” Kazuki Kumakura played hooker, flanker, centre, wing and fullback. Team MVP Tadeo Andriani played tighthead prop and hooker, as did Jung Chul Lee. First-five Juani Bubica had never played at 10 before this season, but with injury to Hokuto Okuda forcing us to create a replacement first-five, Juani gladly took on the challenge. His growth through the season in that position was a highlight for all involved.

The team’s top points scorers were Lucas Parry on 71 points (3 tries, 4 pens and 22 conversions), Diego Mosso with 70 points (14 tries) and Tadeo Andriani with 65 points (13 tries). Hokuto Okuda scored 30 points through 6 tries and would have likely scored many more had he not be ruled out of play in the middle portion of the season through injury. Similarly Scottish No. 8 Grant Jackson scored 7 tries (35 points) but did not complete the season because he returned to Scotland in order to commence study at Dundee University. Juani Bubica also scored 6 tries and most weeks dominated the tackle stats - in one sequence of games making 37 consecutive tackles before missing one. Between them, Nick Smith and Juani probably made a third of the team’s tackles. Steve Pepese, Tadeo Andriani, Jung Chul Lee and Tom Henderson were the cornerstone of a scrum that was never bettered. Kazuki Kumakura became a hooker during the season and contributed well to the front-row. Locks Kyle Gullery and Sota Kunikane formed a very useful second-row combination with Tom Henderson also appearing occasionally in the second row. Kyle was a consistent performer whose straightforward approach, physicality and work-rate was appreciated by all. Sota Kunikane was chosen as the team’s most improved player. In the back-row Nick Smith was a constant figure at openside flanker with blindside and no. 8 being shared by Harrison Mitchell (Rookie of the Year), Kosuke Sasaki and Grant Jackson. Kazuki Kumakura also appeared in the backrow.

The scrumhalf spot was covered well by Lucas Parry all season, with his long pass, speed and taking over the kicking duties very well, but Tom Turner from Riccarton H.S. was always ready to step up when necessary. First-five was Hokuto Okuda until he broke his wrist, with Juani taking over from there. Midfield was Ofa Puleiku (chosen by the team as the Players’ Player of the Year) and Diego Mosso, who grew into probably the best centre-pair in the grade. Ofa’s on-field communication was outstanding and Diego’s passing and off-loading ability was unmatched. His uncanny ability to read opposition passes also saw him score three tries from intercepts. Going from zero (he was previously a forward), to a very promising centre, resulted in Diego being selected as the team’s most improved back. Wing duties were shared by Finn Russell, who played above his weight, Reuben Godinet, Kazuki Kumakura and the Riccarton H.S. duo of Tom Turner and Tom Sellars. All played well, but Reuben Godinet’s brave comeback after injury was something for the team management to celebrate. Despite being hampered by injury, Reuben always attended practices to help and be part of the team. That attitude augers well for him in his life beyond school.

The team was coached by Mark Ealey and Warwick Taylor, with Warwick putting in yet another year of sterling service. Mark’s organisation of team tactics and trainings was very much appreciated by everyone. He will be sorely missed, especially for his contribution over the past five years to Burnside High School (with his IRP programme) and Burnside High School Rugby. Jan Galloway was an ever-efficient manager, with UC Sports Coaching Degree intern Lawrence Clark contributing well as a defence-analyst and assistant coach. IRP S&C coach Riko Chinen helped with conditioning sessions carried out within Tuesday trainings. Thanks are also owed to physio Ben Jowsey (Motus Physio), without whose strapping skills the team would not have been able to field 15 players each week, and of course to Max Russo who served as a very capable videographer. The 1st XV is also grateful to the U16s for making themselves available as opposition on Thursday’s attack vs defence sessions.

A word of explanation: The move by the 1st XV to the Metro U18 grade this year from the UC Championship was brought about because of a lack of local front-row resources. In the Metro age-grades there are no restrictions on the number of international players, meaning that if necessary our three foreign front-row capable players could all play at the same time to give us enough props and a hooker to create a scrum. In addition to Tadeo Andriani, Kazuki Kumakura and Jung Chul Lee, local players Tom Henderson and Steve Pepese did extremely well to ensure that for most of the season we got by with a total of five front-rowers. Only towards the very end did the appearance of Tera Maeda at hooker give us the leeway to have sufficient front-row reserves. In most games at least half of the forward pack and three of the backs were foreign, so without the IRP players, and Grant Jackson from Scotland, the 1st XV would have struggled in the U18 grade.