1st XV take out CNI Rugby Competition
We started with a camp and match against King’s College in Auckland, who proved to be far too good for us at the beginning of this season. We came away licking our wounds after a huge loss (5-68) and injuries to some of our key players. It was the beginning of a rough time for our lads as we continued to be plagued by injuries and lost the next four games, against Palmerston North Boys’ High School (14-33), Gisborne Boys’ High School (7-26), Hamilton Boys’ High School (10-31) and St Peter’s School (7-14). However, we hadn’t yet commenced the Central North Island (CNI) competition. Despite these heavy losses, our coaches and players remained focussed and positive and everyone worked really hard on developing their fitness, scrummaging, lineouts and ball skills. This mature approach was to play a key role for the remainder of the season. One more pre-season game against Cambridge High School brought an end to our run of losses with a 27-22 win, which helped boost our confidence going into the CNI competition.
The first three games of the CNI competition saw the start of our hard work beginning to pay off. We had solid wins against Wanganui Collegiate (36-24), St John’s College, Hamilton (40-10) and Rathkeale College (39-21) - cementing our processes every game. We then narrowly lost to arch rivals St Peter’s School (19-22) in a tough, well contested battle. If we wanted to finish top of the points table, we had to win the rest of our CNI games. And that we did - more and more convincingly, the more rugby we played:
- Francis Douglas Memorial College - home: 38-10
- Feilding High School - away: 27-22, narrowly beating them to win the Rick Francis Memorial Shield.
- Wesley College - home: 59-14
- Lindisfarne College - home: 35-12
- St John’s College, Hastings (played on the magnificent Delaney Park in Taupo): 75-12
- Te Aute College - away: 53-5
This meant we met Wesley College again for a home semi-final.
Daniel Johnson writes:
“Wesley had their reputation to regain from their big loss to us earlier and we knew they were going to come out firing. Sure enough, the game started with St Paul’s hard on defence, only five metres out from our try line, until we worked our way downfield with good individual skills, to send Temple Beauchamp down the side-line for the opening try. Then two more quick tries made the game seem to be easy pickings for St Paul’s. But Wesley fought back and did a 15 man lineout drive to score their first try. (Half time 17-5). St Paul’s knew the job wasn’t over and sent Nick Karton piercing through the Wesley defence to score just to the right of the sticks. Wesley weren’t giving in and they came back with some well worked tries, making the score 36-27 with five minutes to go! We missed a penalty, but managed to keep the pressure on Wesley and were rewarded with an intercept into the hands of Mattheus Pio to cement our win. Final Score 41-27”
And then Feilding High School joined us for a home CNI Final. Alex Johnson was unable to play as he broke his thumb against Te Aute, but he summarised the game well as follows:
“Feilding vs St Paul’s, has always been a top notch encounter, with both teams having varying success in the past few years. The bitter taste of being knocked out by Feilding in the semi-final last year meant that St Paul’s were eager to avenge last year’s narrow defeat. Earlier in the year, St Paul’s had come out on top, in a hard fought game, with the score ending up 22 - 27. However, Feilding’s formidable nature of play meant that this would be no easy feat.
Play started off in a stalemate as such, with possession and territory bouncing between both teams. After countless back and forth play, it was Feilding that struck first through a penalty, as a result of a mistake in our own 22. St Paul’s fought hard to answer back and were rewarded with a penalty, converted by Tepaea Cook-Savage, as a result of our positive, free flowing style of rugby. This was a key momentum shift for St Paul’s, who then crossed the line first, courtesy of the elusive and powerful Gideon Wrampling. St Paul’s continued to score points before the break, although Feilding replied with a try of their own, and we went into halftime with a 17 - 10 lead.
Early in the second half, St Paul’s troubled the Feilding defensive systems, and we extended our lead to 24 - 10. Despite this healthy lead, Feilding started to dominate possession towards the end of the game and closed the gap as a result. While Feilding did cross our line twice, our win was a testimony to our persistent defence. Overall, an outstanding performance that all the boys should be extremely proud of. All the team would like to say a big thank you to the school for all their support. Final Score 24 - 17.”
A great and fitting result for a season where St Paul’s patterns of play got better and better. This was largely due to the huge commitment shown by the players, but also thanks must go to the formidable coaching team of Bridgette Hampton (Physio), Mr Chris Foot (manager), Mr TJ Pieters (trainer), Mr Paul Hodder (technical coach), Mr Cody Price (coach), and Mr Jed Rowlands (Head coach)
Points for: 551
Points against: 322