St Kevin’s College notched their third victory of the season over Waitaki Boys’ High School in a convincing 38-13 display in the Highlanders First XV bowl final at Murray Field on Saturday.
Waitaki drew first blood through a well taken Matt Munro penalty inside ten minutes before first five-eighth Inoke Nafahu darted over the line for the opening try as the visitors looked the more sprightly of the two sides early on.
SKC then lost Paea Palaa to the sin bin after the power-house prop went in to a tackle with no arms used.
The home side returned fire on the half-hour mark with a try from Filipo Veamatahau, the Number 8’s decisive and powerful running provided Waitaki’s defence with food for thought throughout the contest, and the ever-consisted Brodie Flannery duly converted for an 8-7 scoreline.
WBHS skipper Jake Greenslade was then sent to the sin bin by referee Nick Webster following an off the ball indiscretion, the dismissal proved costly for Waitaki with St Kevin’s scoring 19 points in the loosehead prop’s absence
Palaa then returned to score St Kevin’s second try of the tie on the stroke of half time which was converted by Flannery for a 14-8 advantage at the break.
St Kevin’s began the second period with a renewed sense of vigour, exploiting the pace of wings Lukaiarnn Holden and Connor Newlands, but it was Alex Collier that stole the limelight in the second half.
The full back’s reliable kicking and energy to defend across the backfield offered stability but it was pace in the counter- attack than enabled him to touch down in the corner for his first and SKC’s third try of the encounter.
Collier crossed the line again five minutes later and Flannery converted with a well taken kick as the deficit widened to 28-6.
Waitaki hit back through hooker Kafa Katoa on the hour but Matt Munro was unable to capitalise with the conversion.
Newlands then displayed skills which would be more at home on a soccer pitch with a perfectly weighted kick and chase to score the penultimate try of the contest before Collier completed his hatrick at the death for a 38-13 final score.
St Kevin’s coach Justin Fowler said his side altered their attacking focus in the first half after Waitaki’s positive start.
“Waitaki did start well and had plenty of ball, our discipline was quite poor and we gave away a number of penalties which didn’t help,” he said.
“This meant that Waitaki were able to hold onto the ball for long periods of time and build pressure.
“We changed the focus of our attack which meant we were able to make more ground and maintain the ball for long periods.
“By doing this we were able to deny Waitaki the ball for long periods of play at the, end of the first half as well as the second half.”
Fowler said he was pleased with the performance and his side’s achievements throughout the season.
“I was very pleased how we played,” he said.
“It was an all round team performance today and the whole side played well. But if I had to pick players that stood out you couldn’t go past No.8 Filipo Veamatahau, centre Siua Ngalo and winger Connor Newlands.
“We are very happy with how the season has gone so far. We have achieved all the goals that we set ourselves. These were to qualify for the top eight, then finish in the top six, beat Waitaki in the inter-school game and to be top coed school in the Highlanders region.”
Waitaki Boys’ coach Ryan rued his team’s inconsistent display but praised the players’ desire and the performances of Hayden James and George McLennan.
“Yes, we started brightly, but that’s been the story of our season, play very well for 20 odd minutes and then go off boil,” he said.
“Clearly the yellow card hurt us as they put on 19 points, but that was compounded by us just completely stopping moving forward on defence and their powerful carriers started to line break at will.
“We beat ourselves in a way, but on the other side they have a couple of powerful athletes plus a couple of guys with real rugby nous.
” (It’s been a) mixed season really, we have the heart, but that only gets you to a certain level, you need big powerful ball carriers to compete even at this level and we just don’t have enough of them at school unfortunately.”
St Kevin’s are now determined to qualify for the top four at the national finals in Rotorua next week but will need to beat Burnside High School at Murray Field on Saturday.
Fowler said his team must perform at their best against the biggest school in the South Island and hoped for a good turn out of local support for his players against one of the best sides in the South Island.
“It will be a huge occasion and a great opportunity for our local boys to take on the best in the South Island and with a bit of luck we could qualify to take on the best teams in New Zealand, this includes one of the best teams in New Zealand in the last three years, Saint Kentigern from Auckland,” he said.
St Kevin’s College 38; tries – Filipo Veamatahau, Paea Palaa, Alex Collier (3), Connor Newlands. Brodie Flannery 4 cons.
Waitaki Boys’ High School 13; tries – Inoke Nafahu, Kafa Katoa. Matt Munro 1 pen.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Filipo Veamatahau on his way try against Waitaki Boys’ High School at Murray Field on Saturday.