In a fixture that has a habit of distracting players from the job at hand, St Kevin’s didn’t succumb to the pressure or sense of occasion to retain the Leo O’Malley Memorial Trophy in a 33-12 victory.
The holders found themselves under pressure in the first 10 minutes but a well-organised defence kept Waitaki at bay before the ever-consistent boot of Brodie Flannery opened the scoring form a penalty.
SKC began to look menacing, forcing Waitaki into defensive errors for prop Will Sunderland to touch down with 15 minutes played, which Flannery duly converted.
Waitaki were penalised twice more in quick succession, for Flannery to help his side to 16-0 lead at the break.
WBHS started the second period with more vigour, but Sunderland punished another defensive error to cross the line for his and his team’s second try of the contest. Flanney’s conversion was on target again for a 23-0 lead.
With 15 minutes played of the second half, Waitaki Boys’ sprang to life with a well-orchestrated move culminating in a try from centre Loni Fisiihoi.
Matt Munro failed to convert from an awkward angle but WBHS appeared to have a renewed sense of belief in their work.
Meli Kolinisau’s powerful running continued to cause St Kevin’s problems but the respective number 17s offered the next twist in the tale of a captivating clash.
SKC prop Paea Palaa continued his fine run of form to give his team a 28-5 advantage but fellow number 17 Kafa Katoa was quick to reply for Waitaki and keep the tie competitive, from which Matt Munro was on target to bring the score line to 28-12.
Wing Connor Newlands capped off the win for St Kevin’s with a try at the death.
SKC coach Just Fowler praised his players’ temperament on a challenging occasion.
“I thought the boys were outstanding today,” he said.
“They played with a lot of confidence and limited their mistakes. There is a lot of pressure around this game on these young men and they handled it well.
“An all-round great performance from the side and all of the boys played well. Loosehead prop William Sunderland was outstanding today, scoring two tries and he did a huge amount of work in the tight, despite the fact that he was full of the flu.
“Centre Matthew Vocea and No.8 Filopo Veamatahau always made the advantage line and carried the ball well. Winger Connor Newlands chased the ball well and made good meters with the ball in hand (and) Prop Paea Palaa made a big impact off the bench and provided a great deal of momentum when he came on.”
Fowler credited Waitaki for their determination and performance.
“Waitaki tried hard and you certainly couldn’t fault their commitment and determination but on the day, the result went our way.”
WBHS coach Ryan Bambry said his players did not handle the pressure of the occasion well but hoped all involved will learn from the experience.
“Disappointing day out,” he said.
“(We were) out-muscled, (gave away) too many penalties in kicking range, too many handling errors.
“The occasion got the better of the boys today unfortunately. (We) will learn from this experience, coaches and players.”
Both sides will have a well-earned break before returning to the Highlanders First XV competition. St Kevin’s will entertain Menzies College on July 19 while Waitaki face a tough test in Otago Boys’ at Milner Park on July 23.
St Kevin’s College. Tries: William Sunderland (2), Paea Palaa (1), Connor Newlands (1). Pens: Brodie Flannery (3), Con: Brodie Flannery (2).
Waitaki Boys’ High School: Tries: Loni Fisiihoi (1), Kafa Katoa (1). Con: Matt Munro (1).
St Kevin’s College – 33
Waitaki Boys’ High School – 12
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – St Kevin’s College captain Jacob Coghlan lifts the Leo O’ Malley Memorial Trophy following his side’s 33-12 win over Waitaki Boys’ High School on Friday.