St Kevin’s College co-captain Tama Wooldridge reached for one word as he tried to sum up the feeling of winning the Blood Match last Friday.
“I’m stoked. The old boys are stoked, we’re stoked, the school is stoked.”
And with that, the inspirational lock was mobbed by his “stoked” schoolmates and his brothers in blue as St Kevin’s celebrated regaining the Leo O’Malley Memorial Trophy with a 19-12 win over old rival Waitaki Boys’ High School.
The score was deceiving – St Kevin’s took control of the game from the opening minutes, and never looked like losing as it completed the double over Waitaki this season.
There is more to a schoolboy’s rugby career than one game, but it was obvious how much it meant to Wooldridge to win back the peanut-shaped trophy in his third Blood Match.
“It’s unreal. It’s been three years in the making, and the Peanut’s coming home.”
St Kevin’s, a slight underdog heading into the game, made a remarkable start, blowing Waitaki off the park as tries to Wooldridge and centre Jerome Misiloi gave the school a 14-0 lead.
“We just came out firing because we had a job to do,” Wooldridge said.
“There are no second chances in this game, and we knew we couldn’t take Waitaki lightly.”
Waitaki fought back to trail 14-12 at halftime – thanks to two tries to star centre Bryden Skinner, the second a wonderful chip-and-chase effort – but St Kevin’s scored the only points of the second half when reserve prop Xavier Kahukura-Davis crashed over in the corner.
Perhaps the most important period of the game was the final stretch as Waitaki was hard on attack and St Kevin’s had to find reserves of calmness and strength to hold on to the lead.
“We did not want the draw,” Wooldridge said.
“We worked really hard for this game, and I’m really proud of the boys.”
St Kevin’s coach Robbie Breen said he was hugely proud of his team.
“We’ve worked hard on trying to get St Kevin’s rugby humming,” Breen said.
“I’m so happy for the boys.”
Breen deliberately did not mention the Blood Match when he set out his goals for the season, but his focus changed when St Kevin’s cruelly missed out on the top six of the Otago premier schools competition.
As expected, it was the St Kevin’s forwards who paved the way for a memorable win.
Rampaging No8 Samuela Babiau just could not be stopped, and Wooldridge – who has developed into a fine leader and tireless lock – led from the front.
Ramesh Khatri was tidy at halfback, Misiloi was immense in defence, and Ben McCarthy showed his class whenever he got the ball.
For a rather flat Waitaki Boys’ team, prop Jake Davies threw himself into everything, halfback Ikenasio was lively, and Skinner was looking in dazzling form until he left the field.
St Kevin’s backed up with a 34-29 win over Kavanagh College on Saturday.
Flanker Paea Fifita scored three tries for St Kevin’s.
Its next game is against the Otago Boys’ High School Second XV on July 21.
Waitaki Boys’ plays John McGlashan College on July 21 and the Otago Boys’ First XV just four days later.
St Kevin’s 19
Tama Wooldridge, Jerome Misiloi, Xavier Kahukura-Davis tries; Ben McCarthy 2 con
Waitaki Boys’ 12
Bryden Skinner 2 tries; Mason James con.