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Sizeable Scots Stop Stoic Stream in Premiership Decider

  • By Adam Julian
  • Photos by Andy McArthur

Scots College are Wellington Premiership champions for the fifth time, puffing, limping, and praying their way to the finish in a 29-27 victory over St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.

Ahead 29-10, with less than 20 minutes remaining, it appeared the Presbyterians’ power had quashed Catholic courage.

Instead, Scots steamrollers started to splutter as their rivals abandoned any caution. The wall of Strathmore could suddenly be run around or through as 29-10 became 29-27 in a flash.

Silverstream fullback Thomas Tukapua, so instrumental in the resurgence, had a kick on full-time for a share of the championship. Cruelly he hit the post, 10m in from touch, 30m shy of the target.

Tukapua played a part in all three tries of the Silverstream revival.  A gut-busting burst created a rare pathway for tigerish blindside Drew Berg-McLean to wriggle over close to the posts. Tukapua converted to make it 29-17.

Stranded deep inside their territory, Tukapua slammed a clearance from 22 to 22. Scots were cas and careless in meekly conceding a turnover. Rigorous phases followed, and lock Alexander Hewitt reduced the deficit to seven.

Scots needed nebulisers, Silverstream was vibrant, ruthless, and precise. An overlap was created and Tukapua, suddenly at halfback, delivered a long, swift pass to first-five Maui Winitana-Patelesio. Usual halfback Oliver ‘off the’ Cuff was unmarked on the wing and suddenly the impossible became possible.

The try at the very end. The conversion hit the poles and it was game over.

A small piece of bore pipe was the only thing that denied Tukapua from becoming a mechanic of a miracle.

Unblemished in the regular season, Scots led all the way. Mammoth props Tobias Mene and Samuela Moli flourished early.  Nippy halfback Jake Lawson and Pyrenees Boyle-Tiatia were creative and authoritative as Scots commanded better field position.

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wisely said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”

Silverstream conceded the first two tries from the same error. Attempting to ‘exit’ their 22, Elijah Solomona ploughed forward as instructed in the pre-programmed strategy. Where was his support? Twice isolated, Scots were too swift and sturdy. Lawson scored his ninth try of 2023 following a quick tap and then fullback Manihera Gardiner profited from possession squandered.

Jake Lawson scores the game’s first try for Scots College.

Things became even grimmer for Silverstream at 15-3. Second-five Ieti Campbell poached an intercept at the ten-metre mark in his half and stormed clear. Silverstream winger Harry Stoupe retreated and tugged at the back of Campbell’s jersey like he was trying to remove a tucked-in bed sheet. Unfazed, Campbell flipped a right-handed offload to winger Richard Jones, and it was Goodnight Irene.

Surrender is not a word in the vocabulary of feisty Berg-McLean. Silverstream unusually outjumped Scots at a contested restart and Berg-McLean scored a try, converted by Tukapua, after accurate and aggressive surges by those in lower numbers. The halftime score was 22-10.

Campbell’s First XV career has outlasted six National Party leaders, the Covid-19 pandemic, and more than a thousand episodes of Shortland Street. His enduring quality was best illustrated ten minutes after the interval. In traffic near the grandstand, he stepped sharply off his left foot reducing would-be tacklers to knocked out tenpins. The run to glory afterward was 25m.

Scots loose forwards Reweti Ngarimu and Harry Irving weren’t headline writers but essential cogs in their triumph. Scots lineout suffocated Silverstream and their scrum was superior. However, Silverstream loosehead Heath Tuifao was not only conspicuous because of Pink Batts head gear.

Silverstream has lost eight finals at Jerry Collins Stadium.

Scots College hosts Feilding High School in Wellington in their Hurricanes semi-final next weekend. Napier BHS hosts Palmerston North BHS in the other. Details to come.

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