1st XV VS DE LA SALLE, KC 17 - 17 DLS
Following a hard-fought and pleasing win last weekend against St. Peters, we knew that this game would be another tough battle as it always is when you travel across the railway tracks to play our very near neighbour – De La Salle College in Mangere. Despite the school term having already ended on Friday, the boys had prepared well for this encounter throughout the week and we were pleasantly surprised that their field had stood up well to the rain that had fallen throughout the week. The coaches had asked for a big performance from the boys so that we could go into the school holidays with two wins from two matches under our belts.
De La Salle are renowned for their big forward pack, so the coaches made the decision to take a five/two split on the bench for this game, with five forwards and only two backs. There was one forced change from the starting line-up from last week with Piki Mihinui coming onto the left wing to replace Luron Iosefa who badly injured his left hand in last weekend’s game. De La Salle are also renowned for starting a match well, so we knew we would have to come out of the blocks quickly to stop any momentum they may have. This was the case and inside the first ten minutes we had both possession and territorial advantage that was soon turned into points with a Jason Honour try scored from a lineout drive 10 metres out from their line. The conversion from Max Webb bounced off the post but we held a 5 – 0 lead. Not long after he scored the try, Jason picked up a bad knee injury and was forced to leave the field. Losing both hookers to injury in two weeks has put extra pressure on the team but Ethan Cave stepped comfortably into the role when Jason was forced from the field.
Similarly to last week, we created scoring opportunities but lacked patience and accuracy at times and did not finish off chances to extend our lead. From one of the entries into our 22m, De La Salle were awarded a penalty and their kicker converted. The forwards provided the backs with ball to move wide, but the field at De La Salle is narrow, so we were unable to get our expansive game flowing as we expect to. Centre Ali Leiataua did manage to get across the line handy to the posts and this time Max Webb was able to convert and when the whistle blew for half time, we lead 12 – 3 but knew we still had work to do to pull away from the opposition.
The lead was extended to 17 – 3 after the break when lock Matthew Monaghan scored his second try in two weeks from another lineout drive, but again, Webb was unable to convert. Ali Leiataua picked up a leg injury and left the field in the 50th minute and then the coaches made some replacements to bring on fresh legs not long after. However, we had lost all the momentum and at the time of the match when we normally rely on our fitness and intelligence to pull away from teams, we lacked spark and De la Salle looked fresher and seemed to gain momentum, while we could not get our game going.
A turning point of the game came with less than 10 minutes to go, when, trying to score the fourth try that would give us the attacking bonus point, the ball was spun out wide and intercepted by the De La Salle player who, totally against the run of play, ran the 30m to score next to the posts. The try was converted and suddenly the score was 17 – 10 with around 6 minutes remaining. Lacking patience, we gave away several penalties and their kicker kicked them down inside our 22m. From a lineout, their forwards did a series of pick and goes and despite our best efforts to defend, eventually scored right next to the posts. With the successful conversion, the scores were tied 17 – all with around 2 minutes to play. Throwing everything into the final couple of minutes, we had possession and got very close to their try line several times but lacked accuracy to score the final try we were searching for and when the final whistle blew, one side was happy and one was not – even though both teams picked up two points each for the draw.
The boys are highly motivated to train throughout the next three weeks of school holidays. Some boys have returned home, but with a large Auckland based contingent this year, the players are highly driven to stay tight and focused on working hard together. Our next match will be away against Dilworth School on Saturday 25th July. Our sincere thanks to those supporters who managed to come out to support the team last Saturday – it is greatly appreciated.