Saturday 17 May saw the highly anticipated match between Auckland's two oldest rivals played out at Auckland Grammar School, and as expected it came down to the wire like most Cooper-Greenbank Cup fixtures. The end result, a score of 13-17 to Auckland Grammar, saw them regain the coveted cup from King’s as last year’s champions.
Televised live on Sky TV, the match setting was perfect with the sun shining, very little wind and a large crowd present to witness a very entertaining and tightly contested match between two evenly matched teams.
As is tradition, the two teams lined up facing each other on the field while the students of King's College followed by the boarders from Grammar's Tibbs House performed their respective hakas.
The first half saw both teams fighting for dominance. King's opened the scoring with a penalty to Zarn Sullivan (Year 12, School) before Auckland Grammar replied with a penalty when both teams infringed in their own halfs. In a crucial turnover at a tackle, the ball was passed to our Fijian lock - Iliesa Ratuva (Year 13, Selwyn)who ran 60m to score the opening try of the match. He did not have a straight run to the line and had a lot of work to do to reach the tryline, which made his efforts so much more appreciated by the rest of the team. First five-eighth Zarn Sullivan slotted the conversion from the touchline for a 10-3 lead.
Right on halftime, King's made several attacks deep into the Grammar zone, which eventually resulted in a penalty straight out in front of the posts. Unfortunately, Sullivan's attempt struck the post and the chance to take a 10 point lead into the break went begging.
There were still high hopes and lots of confidence going into the second half. The Grammar team created several scoring opportunities and from one, their prop crossed over in the corner; their kicker converted from the sideline to tie the game up at 10 all. The game then went back and forth and King's went onto attack in Grammar’s 22m and looked like scoring to open up the game. However, in a crucial moment, the last pass to put the extra man over the tryline was intercepted by a Grammar player who raced 85m to score the killer blow. The Grammar kicker converted from the sideline and Grammar had opened up a 7 point lead.
From a foray into the Grammar half, the opposition infringed and replacement kicker - Meihana Grindlay (Year 11, School) converted the penalty to close the gap to just four points with 10 minutes to go. Despite throwing everything into the last stanza, King's was unable to score again and the game ended 17-13 to Auckland Grammar.
Head of Rugby Tasesa Lavea says this was a game played in conditions similar to a semi-final.
“Our team must maintain this level of commitment and application in the next two games against St. Peter’s College and Mount Albert Grammar School to go into the holidays still positioned as one of the top two teams of the competition.”