Round one to the boys in blue – and can they land a knockout punch on July 6?
St Kevin’s College threw out the form book and gained a huge confidence boost ahead of the Blood Match with a 26-24 win over Waitaki Boys’ High School on Saturday.
Often, the first clash of the season between the two Oamaru First XVs has little bearing on the one that really counts on the last day of the second term.
But the sight of St Kevin’s players whooping with delight on their home ground, and Waitaki players slumped to the turf, should not be dismissed as meaningless.
St Kevin’s has had a mixed season, looking good at full strength but struggling when injuries hit.
On Saturday, it had a few lapses – appearing a little lost without injured playmaker Ben McCarthy – but generally looked potent with ball in hand, and more enthusiastic and energetic.
St Kevin’s led 14-3 at one stage but went off the boil either side of halftime, and Waitaki led 24-14 with five minutes to play.
You learn a lot about schoolboys in those situations, and St Kevin’s responded in style, scoring twice to seal a memorable win.
Dynamic flanker Paea Fifita produced one of the great St Kevin’s performances, ranging all over the field and scoring all four of his side’s tries.
Beside him, No 8 Samuela Babiau had a storming game, brushing off tacklers during numerous charging runs, while Fem Bootsan looked lively in midfield and halfback Ramesh Khatri was tidy and constructive.
It was not a perfect day for St Kevin’s. It missed out on the top six of the Otago premier schools competition as Dunstan High School grabbed two bonus points in a loss to South Otago High School.
That left St Kevin’s and Dunstan tied on points, Dunstan progressing as it won the clash between the schools.
St Kevin’s is still fuming, understandably, after seeing Mt Aspiring College gifted five points by the Otago Boys’ High School First XV, which took a mid-season jaunt to Brisbane and defaulted a game Mt Aspiring would never have won.
Had that not happened, St Kevin’s would have made the top six.
Waitaki was already in the top six, and its dual aims of having a crack at the Otago schools title and regaining the Peanut will not have changed.
The boys in black seemed quite flat on Saturday – probably due to the difficult trip they had to Invercargill just three days previously – and losing to their town rivals might be a reality check.
No 8 Tevita Katoa was playing well before he left the field with injury, lock Blake Welsh battled away, and Bryden Skinner had a couple of good attacking opportunities.
St Kevin’s backed up on Tuesday with a gutsy performance in the interschool against St Bede’s College in Christchurch.
St Bede’s, which gave Christchurch Boys’ a scare earlier this year, won 20-19.