A well-taken drop goal in the dying moments of Friday’s national co-educational First XV semi-final dashed St Kevin’s hopes of a place in the final as Cambridge High School secured a narrow 15-14 victory in Rotorua.
Heavy rain before kick-off created a greasy surface and continued for much of the first half, as both sides struggled with the ball in hand.
Cambridge broke the deadlock inside 20 minutes, as Spencer Jones snatched an intercept to run 60 meters and touch down, before prop Nicolas Lyall powered over under the posts.
Cambridge looked the more dominant of the two sides, spending prolonged periods anchored in St Kevin’s 22 and took a 12-0 lead into half-time.
The deficit could have been wider, but for a determined defensive effort from fullback Alex Collier, who chased for more than 50 metres to prevent another try.
SKC were forced to defend for the opening 25 minutes of the second period and soaked the pressure up well.
The stubborn defensive play was rewarded when a quick penalty tap led to Number 8 Filipo Veamatahau’s 30 meter charge, breaking through three tackles to crash over the line.
Brodie Flannery duly converted as Justin Fowler’s side looked to stage the unlikeliest of comebacks.
Centre Matthew Vocea then sliced through Cambridge’s defence to touch down for Flannery to convert and give his side a 14-12 lead.
With one minute remaining, Jones slotted a perfectly-weighted drop goal from 30 metres to snatch a 15-12 victory and a place in the final for Cambridge.
Fowler said his players were disappointed with the defeat but praised their attitude.
“The team were devastated to come so close and to lose like that,” he said.
“Their determination and desire to never give up despite being under huge pressure on defence and playing in some very difficult conditions is a testament to their character and the respect they have for each other. As a coach, I couldn’t be prouder of them.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough on the day and that happens at times.”
St Kevin’s were beaten 60-0 by Otahuhu College in their third place playoff yesterday.
Cambridge High School: 15 (Kuli Kaituu, Spencer Jones tries; Jones 1 con, 1 dg)
St. Kevin’s College: 14 (Filipo Veamatahau, Matthew Vocea tries; Brodie Flannery 2 con)
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: FACEBOOK – St Kevin’s College centre Mattew Vocea produced a fine performance and scored a try in St Kevin’s narrow loss to Cambridge High School in Rotorua on Friday