1R 3 - 17 Auckland Grammar School
The King's College 1R rugby team was very excited to play their semi-final at home on their #1 field on Saturday. Their preparation had been good, and the coaches felt that the boys were ready to repeat the performance of last week, when they had outplayed Grammar to earn the right to host their semi-final after a long, tough season.
The day began with both teams being weighed in before the match. The coaches were pleased that every player on the squad weighed in under the 85.5kg weight restriction. The team had thrived in fast, dry conditions, but it was a concern when it started to rain as soon as the match commenced. It also did not help that they lost the toss and were forced to play into the very strong wind and rain in the first half.
The team managed to keep hold of the ball and defend the first 20 minutes of Grammar's onslaught. However, from a turnover ball, winger Sacha Foenander (Year 12, School) was yellow-carded for an early tackle on a player who was about to score. The referee also whistled a penalty try, which was indeed justified. Being down to 14 men for the next 10 minutes put them under pressure, and they started making a few errors and lost their composure somewhat. Grammar took advantage of a lack of defenders down the vacant wing area and scored another try that was also converted by their kicker. They had a 14-point lead.
The team was forced to defend a number of Grammar attacks, and from a ruck inside their own 22m, the referee deemed that they had used hands in the ruck and awarded Grammar another penalty, which they converted for a 17-0 halftime lead.
At the break, the coaches told the boys not to panic and to utilize the very strong wind and rain to their advantage by kicking deep into Grammar's territory and forcing them to try to exit their own 22m. However, the boys did not follow these instructions and spent the majority of the half trying to run the ball from inside their own 22m, when a long "wipers" kick was what the coaches were asking them to do to put them down the right of the field and force Grammar to defend their line, having to play into the elements.
The team was rewarded with a kickable penalty that Louie Ballan (Year 13, Parnell) slotted, and this was followed up by a series of forward drives into Grammar's 22m. One of these eventually resulted in a well-deserved try wide out. Louie was not able to convert, and despite throwing everything into the final 10 minutes, the team was unable to break Grammar's defense. When the final whistle sounded, Grammar were deserved 17-8 winners.
This was a disappointing way to end the season, but the coaches were proud of the way the boys had played in difficult conditions. They will now start their preparation for the national U85kg tournament in Wellington commencing in 11 days' time.
The coaches would like to thank all the families and supporters who came out to support the boys again this weekend, especially, but also throughout the season.
U15R 22 - 7 Mount Albert Grammar School
King's U15R bounced back from their disappointing defeat last week against Sacred Heart to record a comprehensive win in the semi-final against MAGS.
Playing into the wind in the first half, King's started strongly, led by their captain, Hugh Smithies (Year 9, Parnell), who was prominent throughout in both attack and defense, ably supported by Harry Rutherford (Year 10, School) and Ed Duncan (Year 9, Greenbank). King's dominated possession and territory early on and eventually got the first try through Hugh Smithies after good handling created space on the left and he beat the defense to run in from 30 meters out. In tricky, windy conditions, the conversion missed, leaving the score at 5-0. From the kick-off, King's had to withstand some pressure from a strong and physical MAGS team, however, the customary strong defense that King's have shown over the last few games kept MAGS at bay and King's were soon back on the attack. After several penalties in King's' favor, Hugh Smithies took a quick tap and powered through the MAGS defense to score the second try of the game. Again, the conversion attempt missed and the score was 10-0, which is how it stayed until half time.
MAGS started the second half strongly with their forwards making good ground around the fringes. Through a combination of King's' ill-discipline and some poor tackling, MAGS advanced into the King's 22 and eventually drove over for a converted try and at 10-7, it was game on. MAGS pressured King's from the kick-off, but again, good defense kept them at bay and good tactical kicking from Jonty Batchelor (Year 9, Greenbank) soon had Kings back on the front foot. Relentless King's pressure resulted in a number of penalties from MAGS, with King's eventually getting a crucial try from Caleb Stephens (Year 9, Greenbank) who drove over just to the right of the posts. The try was well converted by Liam Parker (Year 9, Parnell) to give King's some breathing space at 17-7. From the kick-off, a strong run up the left touchline from Hugh Smithies took King's back into the MAGS 22, but unfortunately, the ball was turned over at the breakdown and cleared by MAGS. However, King's didn't have to wait too long for the clinching try though. Good work from the forwards took King's up to the MAGS line before Archie McInnes (Year 9, St John's) dived over in the left-hand corner. The difficult conversion was missed, but King's were now firmly in control. King's never looked like letting MAGS get back into the game and held firm to the final whistle to win 22-7.
King's now go into the final next Saturday against old rivals Auckland Grammar. Despite the score line, there is plenty of work to do before that game, with the coaches unhappy at a few elements of the King's performance. However, with only one defeat all season, King's go into the final confident of ending Grammar's recent stranglehold on this grade.
Tries: Hugh Smithes (2), Caleb Stephens, Archie McInnes Conversion: Liam Parker
U14A 21 - 21 Sacred Heart College
King's College U14A saved the best for their last match of the season with a nail-biting finish against Sacred Heart, emerging with a draw, 21 all. The boys rose from the ashes like a phoenix on Saturday, with the first quarter of the match a one-way tide in favor of the King's men. With plenty of possession and territory to play with, the boys were on fire, playing to their full potential, especially in the engine room – the full forward pack. Missing their key forward and scavenger Henry Main (Year 9, School) to illness, flankers Finn Thompson (Year 9, Marsden), Jacob Heron (Year 9, Averill), and number 8 Reid Thompson (Year 9, Parnell) played like men possessed.
From an attacking scrum 5 metres out from the try line, halfback Oscar Holt (Year 9, Parnell) set the backline alight with first five-eighth Cale Ngatai (Year 9, Parnell) and second five George Chu-Ling (Year 9, Averill) combining in midfield. The pop pass hit winger Jack Burns (Year 9, Peart) at speed, who sprinted across the field to score a great converted try.
Soon after, from almost the exact same spot, another exceptional attacking move was executed from the base of a scrum. Holt and Ngatai combined, then Ngatai's skip pass hit Ollie Anderson (year 9, Greenbank) at pace, who ran through three or more tackles and brushed past the defending fullback to score another amazing individual try under the posts. The try was converted, bringing the score to 14-0, which remained there at halftime, leaving us in the unusual position of going into the break with a lead.
Sacred Heart came back out of the blocks with one mission: to get themselves back into the game. A team transformed, they played with determination and desperation in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The boys defended hard, but small errors allowed Sacred Heart to capitalize and score two converted tries to even the score to 17 each. Against the run of play, Sacred Heart scored another try, which then set the boys on a mission to equalize and then hunt for that elusive win.
With their tails up and optimism buoyed, Sacred Heart received the kickoff and immediately started to throw the ball around, through the hands, setting up for a backline attack – only to be thwarted by winger Elijah Pathan (Year 9, Parnell), who skillfully intercepted a long pass and sprinted downfield to score a flying converted try under the dot.
The game remained locked at 21-a-piece. In the dying moments of the game, deep in our own 22, fullback Ollie Anderson passed out wide to center Robbie Dunn (Year 9, Marsden), who dished up quick ball to winger Elijah Pathan (now on fire). Elijah darted 5 or so meters, executed a great kick and chase, and then followed up with a grubber to the corner, forcing the opposition to touch the ball in goal. The boys quickly set up for that final push for the win in anticipation of a 5-meter attacking scrum. Much to their disappointment, however, the referee promptly blew the final whistle and scurried off to referee the final match.
A great game to finish off the season, boys! The win was not meant to be, but a draw is just as satisfying a result against a team ranked fourth in the competition. Wishing you all an amazing season in 2024, we know that you will all be awesome!
Tries: Jack Burns (1), Ollie Anderson (1), Elijah Pathan (1) Conversion: Cale Ngatai (3/3)