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Wellington College beats Rongotai College as St Pat’s miss out to St Bede’s in midweek First XV matches

  • By Adam Julian and Steven White
  • Photos by Andy McArthur

Two First XV matches in Wellington on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as big traditionals in Christchurch and Invercargill this week. A wrap of all the action below. 

Wellington College pulls away from Rongotai College in second half

Wellington College defended both the Heron Scarf and Williment Challenge Trophy in beating Rongotai College 47-13 and temporarily going to the top of the Wellington Premiership First XV table.

In bright sunshine at Rongotai College, Wellington College won with a slashing second half.  Wellington College scored five unanswered second half tries and scored 33 consecutive points.

Wellington College had led 14-10 at halftime, following two tries to Rongotai that had them up 10-0 early.

Rongotai College supporters celebrate their first try.

Rongotai were in the fight at 14-13 down early in the second half when first-five Aaron Gollan kicked a penalty on the back of a sin-binning to Wellington’s halfback Bentley Faulkner.

But this proved a catalyst for Wellington to get back in the game and take control. Playmaking first five Archie Sims moved into the halfback position, and it was his 50-22 up into the carpark corner that sparked their first try of the second half to hooker Dan Hawes off the ensuing lineout drive.

Rongotai’s next restart failed to go 10 metres and Wellington College advanced swiftly back into the 22 and a series of penalties saw No. 8 Z’kdeus Schwalger take a quick tap and plough over the line and suddenly it was 26-13.

Z’kdeus Schwalger on his way to scoring one of two clutch second half tries.

Schwalger scored again two minutes later when second five Lorenz-Markel Strickland-Rere placed a stab kick behind the line which caught a Rongotai player’s boot and sat up for him to regather and then pass inside to the No. 8 on his inside.

The try scoring burst continued when replacement hooker Seb Hopkins crossed, and the match was sealed at 40-13.

Rongotai fought hard to fulltime and were desperately unlucky not to score off a concerted period near the line.

Instead, Wellington College broke out and centre Te Aowera Para scored on fulltime to seal victory.

Earlier, Rongotai College made a flying start to the match, following a pair of stirring hakas.

They made full use of an early period of possession when they earned a penalty and kicked for a lineout near the corner. Quick ball off the top saw them rip it wide and fullback Jay Philp crossed in the opposite corner.

They scored their second try after 10 minutes through left wing Teddy Stanley who sped through to score in the carpark corner.

Rongotai’s players celebrate their opening try of the contest.

Wellington College rallied and drove from a lineout and were held up. A subsequent scrum saw them score their first try and close the gap to 10-7.

A few minutes before halftime, Wellington College doubled their score and took the lead with their second converted try, pressure and phase play near the line proving telling and blindside flanker Lafaele Lupo eventually crossing the whitewash.

Rongotai College missed a penalty with the last act of the first half and the visitors went into the break leading 14-10.

Rongotai suffered their first loss of the season after earlier wins against Tawa College (27-17) and Hutt International Boys’ School (29-27).

Rongotai is smaller than previous seasons, but their mobility is improved and they were threatening when they were allowed to be expansive. Philp is a delight to watch with his fearlessness and swift footwork. Winger Aston Burwell-Garrant was brave and elusive. First-five Aaron Gollan has played 34 games for the First XV.  No.8 Naea Fiu and tough Italian lock Tom Da Vanzo were the pick of the Rongotai forwards.

Sims’ management of the game when Wellington was reduced to 14 was composed and classy.  Schwalger really lifted and Wellington got good value from their bench especially Hopkins and Laifone Kamoto.

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St Bede’s defeat St Pat’s Town on Tuesday

St Bede’s College: 33 (Caleb Stevens, Kymani Hau-Taunoa, Genesis Sherlock, Charlie Applegarth, Bautista Ferrer tries; Reuben McIntyre 4 con) St Pats Town: 21 (Ethan Lepou, William Stenhouse, Steven Nunn tries; Max Reynolds 3 con)

On Tuesday, St Bede’s College foiled St Pats Town 33-21 in a traditional fixture at Evans Bay Park.

The Christchurch visitors made a sluggish start and Ethan Lepou scored the first try for Town. Town were aggressive and precise with their forward carries and the No.8 wrestled over beside the posts.

St Bede’s first-five Josh Cusin played his 25th game for the First XV and was an assured performer. His right boot was the source of considerable territory, and he was enterprising on attack. After a penalty on halfway, Cusin caught Town by surprise with a quick tap and sent fullback Caleb Stevens clear.

St Bede’s lineout was a strength and locks Bede Giera and Tyler Ikin were a hive of activity. The drive was effective, and a try was scored by hooker Kymani Hau-Taunoa midway through the first half.

Town’s forwards were direct and combative with Lepou, Donncha McNamara-Taele, Emilo Bell and Riley Bracewell to the fore. Halfback Max Reynolds narrowly missed two penalty shots, but a 12-7 deficit at halftime wasn’t cause for panic. Reynolds is a gusty and lively player.

Indeed, Town took the lead shortly after the interval when a towering kick was left unattended by St Bede’s and Town second-five Dante Ford-Tuveve caught the ball gleefully and dashed away.

St Bede’s bench injected some enthusiasm and punch as Town’s larger forwards lost some of the earlier impetus. Right winger Genesis Sherlock scored a try following clinical and prolonged phase play. The second-five Reuben McIntyre’s sideline conversion bounced off the crossbar’s center and over for two points, 19-14.

Charlie Applegarth skipped past fatiguing defense a short while later and St Bede’s looked comfortable at 26-14.

However, Town was improved from missing out to Wellington College recently and a series of stubborn pick-and-goes saw reserve prop Steven Nunn crash over. Reynolds converted and it was 26-21.

Bautista Ferrer expelled thoughts of a Town win. The St Bede’s tighthead prop regained his footing after being ankle-tapped to thrust over for the last try.

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South Island First XV matches heat up

In the South Island, there were two traditional games of nationwide interest. Christchurch Boys’ High School rallied from 15-25 down at halftime to subdue Christ’s College 34-25.

The annual “College Match” dates back 132 years, when Christ’s College won the inaugural fixture 34-0. Since then, the blue-and-black hoops of Boys’ High have been successful on 86 occasions, Christ’s have won 43 times with nine draws. Combined both schools have produced more than 60 All Blacks.

Christ’s, beaten 37-3 in 2023, produced an almost faultless first half scoring all their points through tries to Lui Tupuola, PJ Palamo and Benji Nation, Gavin Holder kicked two conversions and two penalties.

Christchurch used their bigger pack to mount a rally and the brave Christ’s College side eventually wilted. Boys’ High scored six tries to Hiro Fuchigami, Josh Findlay, Cam Jones, Jacob Inch, Ollie Singleton and Finn McLeod, Hanroux Wessells and Haig added conversions.

In Invercargill, National Champions Southland Boys’ High School retailed the Moascar Cup edging Kings’ High School, Dunedin 17-13. A try in the 53rd minute to Luka Salesa, converted by Mika Muliaina, catapulted the hosts to a lead they never lost in a tense conclusion.

King’s pack is noteworthy for its size and mobility this season and they took it to Southland. Lafaele Tofiga kicked the opening penalty after 11 minutes, but Southland would score the first try after 28 minutes to Crenshaw Conroy. King’s responded immediately with a try to Isaac Kramers. A conversion by Tofiga gave the visitors a 10-7 halftime lead.

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