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Preston guiding young Billygoats resurgence 

  • By Adam Julian

Kyle Preston can’t stop scoring tries. The halfback has bagged 21 tries in his last 20 games for Old Boys University, including four in the students’ 59-17 overcoming of Wainuiomata on Saturday.

With nine tries in 2023, Preston is the leading try scorer in the Swindale Shield after seven rounds. In 28 appearances prior to his hot streak, he’d only scored four tries for the Billygoats. In two seasons with Tawa (2018-19), he scored three tries in 32 games.

“I work as an apprentice roofer with Freeman Stempa who scores a lot of tries in league for the Porirua Vikings. He gave me a bit of grief about my lack of try-scoring and encouraged me to mix it up a little. Since then, I’ve been on a roll,” Preston said.

“As a halfback, I obviously handle the ball. I’ve become more confident at having a snipe and picking my moments.”

Preston scores one such try against Poneke last year in their Beet Algar Rosebowl fixture.

Preston was ruthlessly clinical against Wainuiomata.

“The first one was from momentum by the forwards, a breakdown edge followed by pick and goes. The second was from a scrum where I spotted a hole and had a go. The third I caught them napping from a quick tap and the fourth was similar to the first carrying on the good momentum from the boys.”

Preston scored four tries in a 74-0 win against Avalon in the 2022 Hardham Cup.

The Hardham Cup is not where OBU wants to be in 2023. Preston won a Jubilee Cup in his first season for them, starting the 22-14 victory over Norths in the 2020 final.

“A lot of people have commented about how different our team is from then to now. In 2020 some legends decided to retire, and a few boys got into Super Rugby. It was an awesome group that created a real legacy from which to be inspired.

“It was always going to take time to rebuild. I think we had something like 30 debutants last year and that brings a different flavour. We’ve worked hard to create a really good culture. It’s hard to create on-field chemistry with so many changes but we’ve got good coaches and an environment where openness, learning, and competition are encouraged.”

OBU have won six of their first seven games in the Swindale Shield. Preston had flourished in a co-captaincy role.

“We back ourselves as an all-round team with a strong forward pack and skilled, connected backline. We’re not the biggest team but we think we can combat that with our fitness and speed.

First-five Callum Harkin and prop Samson Koneferenisi are two players who’ve stood out.

“Callum is one of the best tens’ I’ve played with. His skill set is unmatched on this competition and I’m sure if he got a go at a higher level he’d take the chance.

“Samson has really come into his own. He’s only a young fella but he’s strong in his core roles and an outstanding ball carrier.”

Koneferenisi, along with backs Ty Poe and Te Wehi Wright are touring Japan from next week with the New Zealand Universities team.

The students’ shutdown of Petone (20-13) in Round 3 and a convincing 41-26 dispatching of Marist St Pat’s a fortnight later are their best efforts so far. Harkin scored 21 points against MSP.

Playing in the recent win against Hutt Old Boys Marist. Photo: Andy McArthur.

Johnsonville administered a lesson in physicality in a historic win on 29 April at Helston Park. OBU have still to play Upper Hutt and Paremata-Plimmerton who occupy the top two positions with six rounds remaining.

“It’s really exciting to see teams who’ve struggled in the past doing well. It makes every game tougher and more exciting.

“Clubs like Tawa and Petone have been strong in the past. They often peak later which makes things wide open.”

Preston has been trying to open the door to Wellington Lions selection. For the past three years, he’s been a Wellington Development player. In 2022 the B’s only dropped a single game. In 2018 he was a member of the Wellington Under 19s.

This past summer he was in good form playing sevens rugby, and was the Player of the Tournament playing for the Wellington Fijians at the second annual Bula 7s tournament at Porirua Park.

He is a former student of Tawa College which he represented in Premier I, a grade Tawa have returned to in 2023 after failing to make the semis of Premier 3 in 2022. Cliff Hunt has added zeal to the coaching staff.

There is a rugby family connection too, with two of his brothers, Adam and Ryan, both having played for Tawa and father Richard currently on the management staff at the Wellington Axemen.

This weekend OBU travels to Porirua Park to tackle Northern United who are 2 and 5 and had a good win over the Axemen last weekend and will be eager to return home and continue that momentum. Kick-off on Porirua 2 is 2.45pm.

Huddy hooks in

Watch Wednesday night’s Huddy Hui with special Old Boys University guests, hooker Louie Calvert and former OBU lock now lineout coach Oscar Lynch:

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