Ben Brooking soars high for Petone against Tawa last week. He went on to score the winning try at the end to send Petone into this coming Saturday’s Jubilee Cup final against Northern United. PHOTO: Stewart Baird.
- By Adam Julian
With 80 minutes showing on the scoreboard clock at the Petone Rec on Saturday, reigning Jubilee Cup champions Tawa appeared headed to another Jubilee Cup final.
Though only ahead 12-8, Tawa had entrenched themselves inside the Petone 22 for the entire last quarter. Grinding forward attrition suffocating the Villagers.
Suddenly a penalty provides brief reprieve for the hosts. Petone becomes energised and methodical in their advance down the pitch. Tawa loses all composure and becomes a magnet for the referees’ wrath.
Petone wing Richard ‘Squid’ Evans misses the tryline by a nostril hair. If he had tighthead thighs he would have skidded over the sideline. ‘Squid’ stays infield as the ball swings openside. The gaps are widening. Tawa are spent. Petone fullback Ben Brooking describes what happened next.
“I thought Squid (Richard Evans) scored. How close can you get? We could see the gaps opening up. When Carne (Green) passed me the ball I knew it was on. I had to keep my cool, and not drop it,” Brooking laughed.
Ben dived further than he ran! The euphoria of his winning moment, an expression for a collective self-belief that has defined Petone’s season. Three times they have won games from oblivion. Did Brooking think Petone would lose?
“Nah not really. We’ve done it quite a few times this year. We’re a good bunch of guys who work hard for each other, trust our leaders, and default to our process and systems when we’re under pressure.”
The winning try on Saturday. Footage by Mike Lewis Clips.
Brooking has profited immensely from the Petone system. Only centurion Carne Green can claim to have started the same number of games (15) as Brooking this season.
Brooking and the Petone Premiers after their remarkable 27-20 McBain Shield win over HOBM earlier this season. PHOTO: Andy MacArthur.
The versatile outside back is a Petone junior. He was educated at St Bernard’s College where he played three seasons in the First XV from 2012 to 2014. He debuted for the Prems in 2016 against Tawa. Ironically, Tawa won 18-15.
Brooking took 20 games to score his first Premier try and often occupied halfback. A switch to fullback (covering both wings) happened in 2021. The personal trainer is up to 62 Premier appearances.
“I’ve gone up a level in confidence with more opportunities to express myself,” he said.
“The attitude around the whole club has changed. When we used to lose we’d slump around like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. Jamie Ferreira changed that and Ryan Piper and Fridge (Mark Masina) have carried it on.
“We’ve got a group of boys who’ve been around a while now. We’ve got each other’s backs. When a mistake happens, we keep on fighting.”
Petone have lost one game this season and beaten their Jubilee Cup final opponents Norths twice.
In Round Four of the Swindale Shield, Petone prevailed 30-20. More significantly in a Jubilee Cup qualifying final, Petone snapped Norths’ seven-game win streak with a 42-28 success at Petone. Brooking kicked seven goals for a personal haul of 17 points.
Brooking in support of Riley Higgins scoring a key try in Petone’s 30-20 Murray Henderson Trophy win over Northern United earlier this season. PHOTO: Stewart Baird.
Curiously however, Norths will start the final as warm favourites. It will be held at Jerry Collins Stadium, Norths’ home ground. The venue settled before the qualifying positions were resolved.
Norths beat Hutt Old Boys Marist 38-25 away from home in their semi-final last Saturday. TJ Perenara, Du’ Plessis Kirifi, Jackson and Connor Garden-Bachop all played for Norths.
That’s an All Black, two Māori All Blacks and the Wellington Lions captain; a shared tally of over 500 first class games between them, and that’s even before prolific try scorers Losi Filipo and Luca Rees are mentioned.
“It’s exciting to be fair. A lot of us in club rugby are trying to reach that higher level. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Brooking said.
“Norths are a big team. They like to get physical and have a bit of flair. It will be a proud day, both clubs representing their communities.”
The last time Petone won the Jubilee Cup was in 2005. They beat defending champions Norths 21-20 in the final after trailing 20-6. Manu Samoa international Earl Va’a won the Jim Brown Memorial Medal as the player of the match in the ten jersey. Va’a scored 11 points, nailing a sideline conversion of Willie Moala’s try from a grubber kick in the 70th minute and then in the 75th minute, when Petone was pressing again, he kicked a 25 metre-angled penalty to edge Petone ahead and ultimately win the game.