St Kevin’s College are Rotorua-bound after toppling Burnside High School in a thrilling 16-10 in the South Island Coeducational Schools Rugby Final at Murray Field on Saturday.
Halfback Brodie Flannery opened the scoring with a penalty early before fullback Hano Crichton touched down in the corner for Burnside.
Both sides continued to battle away for the remainder of the half and St Kevin’s were finally rewarded with a try to hard-running tighthead prop Paea Palaa, who bulldozed his way over from close range. Flanney missed the conversion and St Kevin’s went into the half-time break up 8-5.
Burnside started strongly in the second period and their decision to turn down two very kickable penalties proved costly, as on the back of the third scrum, they found their way over the chalk through hard-running skipper Filimoni Waqainabete. Fortunately, the conversion was missed by first-five David Smith.
From there, St Kevin’s attacked relentlessly and again forced their way over the try-line, this time through loosehead prop William Sunderland, who managed to ground the ball under a pile of bodies.
The resulting conversion was missed by Flannery, but St Kevin’s were ahead 13-10. Two missed penalties within Flannery’s range gifted the ball back to Burnside, but with a successful effort on full-time, he sealed the 16-10 win to send St Kevin’s to the national co-ed finals.
St Kevin’s coach Justin Fowler was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I am incredibly proud of the boys. They were outstanding,” he said.
“We made a number of mistakes because of the pressure we were under, but we managed to dig deep and we kept coming back at them.
“There was a real momentum shift in the last 10 minutes and we got on top of them and took the lead. I thought we played some very smart rugby in the last part of the game and we shut them out of the game.
“We showed a lot of strength of character and courage throughout the game and were rewarded with victory. Burnside High are the second best team in Christchurch and for us to beat them is pretty special.”
Fowler praised his whole team but made special mention of some of the side’s key players.
“I thought prop Paea Palaa had an incredible game. He made a number of big runs and made a number of bone-jarring tackles that put Burnside on the back foot. Our inside combination of Brodie Flannery and Brady Kingan controlled the game well and centre Matthew Vocea was always a threat with the ball in hand,” he said.
He said his side had a few work-ons ahead of the co-ed finals later this week.
‘We are playing Cambridge High School in the national semi-final on Friday at 12pm in Rotorua. We travel to Rotorua on Thursday morning and play on Friday and then either the final or the play-off for 3rd and 4th on Sunday,” he said.
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY and JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD
STANDOUT: St Kevin’s centre Matt Vocea had a standout game in his team’s 16-10 win over Burnside in the South Island Co-ed final in Oamaru on Saturday.