After Waitaki Boys’ High School First XV’s dramatic win last Friday, one emotion dominated all others for Adrian Tevao: an enormous sense of relief.
The first XV captain led his side to a 21-19 victory over St Kevin’s College, Waitaki Boys’ taking back the Leo O’Malley Trophy.
The ability to hold on and grind out to score in the dying minutes of the match was a far cry from the Waitaki Boys’ side that succumbed to a record 56-15 loss last year.
But it was that loss that helped spur the players on this year.
“I’m relieved. It’s been a long year and ever since last year it’s been in the back of my mind,” Adrian said.
“The boys have worked hard as, all the time – every morning, every night.”
However, he admitted Waitaki Boys’ did not play its best rugby on Friday.
“It was played with too much emotion [but] I think something just clicked, and it just happened.”
Replacement halfback Liam Mavor (17) was the saviour of his side, spotting a mismatch in the St Kevin’s defence and taking his chance to level the scores at 19-19. Liam, who had eight weeks out earlier this season after breaking his collarbone, converted his own try to seal the win.
“I reckon that’s the best feeling of my life,” Liam said.
Waitaki made a strong start when powerful No8 Lotu Fifita bustled his way off the back of the line to get first points on the board.
St Kevin’s rebounded quickly, shifting the ball wide through its backline for winger Beau Beadle to score for St Kevin’s to trail 7-5. No8 Kaleb Cant scored not long after to give St Kevin’s a 10-7 advantage.
Waitaki Boys’ was strong defensively in the first half and was clinical over the ball, forcing several turnovers. That resulted in Adrian capitalising, scoring a converted try to give his side a 14-13 lead heading into the break.
St Kevin’s came out of the break renewed and worked the ball through its elusive backline to put the team in the right part of the park.
Fullback Isaac Clunie knocked over three quick penalties to give his side a five-point advantage. The boys in blue tackled their hearts out for the final part of the game, but in the end it just was not enough.
St Kevin’s coach Justin Fowler said it was disappointing the school side could not hold on to win, but he was exceptionally proud of his team.
“I thought it was a great spectacle of rugby and really proud of what both teams did,” Fowler said.
“I thought our boys showed a lot of heart, defending the line quite well. Their team’s quite a bit bigger than ours … our forward pack’s quite small, but we sort of held our own.”
He praised Waitaki Boys’ for playing a great game.
“I think the whole experience of the game was a real advertisement for schoolboy rugby.
“Thanks to our supporters. They were awesome and it was a really great day.”