St Paul’s Under 15 boys’ sevens team competed in the North Island Secondary School Sevens' tournament held at Mt Maunganui.
The boys were originally entered into the co-ed competition, but a late ruling, meant they were changed into the open boys grade, competing against some of the bigger rugby schools in the North Island.
Day One saw St Paul’s start against New Plymouth Boys’ High School where we won a hard fought match 25-12. After getting out to a 15-0 lead, St Paul’s had to hold on in the second half, until two late tries gave us a more comfortable margin on the scoreboard. St Paul’s showed some steel on defence and some strong character to hold off a comeback from New Plymouth.
With momentum from a victory first up, St Paul’s faced Gisborne Boys, High School in the second game. St Paul’s started the game strong and were on attack throughout the first half, but blew too many opportunities and kept Gisborne in the game, who then scored right on half time to take momentum and the lead into half time. Once again St Paul’s showed some strong character and resilience to score twice in the second half to take a 10-5 lead through some wonderful skill and power. However, momentum swung back Gisborne’s way late in the game, and we conceded a try in the last play of the game to lose 12-10.
The last game of the day was against the local Tauranga Boys’ College team, who were looking like the favourites after a dominant day. St Paul’s were under the pump early, and although we defended really well, we were unable to hold off a much bigger Tauranga team, who took a 14-0 lead in the first half. St Paul’s again showed the character and resilience that defined our tournament, by scoring a long range try right on half time to give ourselves a chance. The second half started with St Paul’s dominating possession and we eventually scored a well-constructed try to get the score line back to 14-12. The game looked over when Tauranga gained possession deep in our own half, late in the game, but St Paul’s managed to turn the ball over, and went the length of the field in overtime to score a wonderful try and take the game 19-14.
Day Two started with St Paul’s in second position and needing a victory over a large Wesley team to qualify for the semi-finals. Again St Paul’s started slowly, with Wesley scoring first, but St Paul’s took the game over from here. Some slick interplay on attack saw St Paul’s score three unanswered tries to take a 17-7 lead early in the second half, before Wesley hit back again. St Paul’s then received a yellow card and had to hang on to a 17-14 lead with only six players. Wesley were unable to breach our defence and when we were back to seven players, we were able to put the game to bed with another try for a 22-14 victory.
The semi-final showdown was a repeat of the Tauranga Boys’ game from day one, and this proved to be a step too far for our tiring boys. Through some simple errors, and questionable refereeing decisions, St Paul’s went into the break 17-0 down. However, we managed to hit straight back after half time, to give ourselves a chance at 17-7. The game stayed this way going backwards and forwards until Tauranga scored two late tries to take the semi with a 27-7 win.
St Paul’s had to front up for the 3rd and 4th playoff, where our battered and bruised boys came up against Gisborne Boys’ High School once again. Carrying injuries and playing our sixth game in two days proved a step too far for the boys who went down in this game 22-7.
Overall it was an outstanding effort from the boys, to give ourselves a chance at making the final in the top half of the draw, against some big schools. We were easily the smallest team at the tournament, but played with heart and skill that the opposition found it hard to match, and we are proud of our fourth place finish. There were many strong individual performances throughout the tournament, highlighted by three of our players making the tournament team - Niah Church-Jones, Layken Tua and Toby Robb. These players were supported strongly by all of their team-mates throughout the tournament – a real team effort.