By Campbell Burnes at Hamilton BHS, September 2013
There may have been more expansive, fluid top 4 schools finals since they kicked off in 1982, but surely few as drama-filled and brutal as the 2013 edition for the NZ Barbarians Cup.
The underdog had its day before a large crowd of around 6000 at Hamilton Boys’ High School. That seemed to be considerably more than rolled up at Waikato Stadium, just two miles west, for the Waikato-Auckland ITM Cup clash.
The home side not only won 12-10 to annex its third national crown and retain the Moascar Cup, but it downed one of the most powerful schoolboy sides in recent memory – St Kentigern College of Auckland, the defending champs, the world Sanix champs and Auckland 1A champs. This First XV brought an incredible unbeaten streak of 52 matches dating back to July 2011.
And for the first half, the favourites looked as though they would wear down the committed Hamilton BHS First XV to make it 53.
The home team was led onto its home turf by a kapa haka group and then both XVs went at each other hammer and tongs, setting a furious pace, punctuated by some rasping, powerful defence. St Kent’s had the wind, but not the lion’s share of possession, nor, strangely, the field position. After first five William Raea had opened the scoring with a penalty, heavy rain pelted the spectators and players, but it was not enough to stop second five TJ Faiane – who scored a superb solo try in the 2012 decider – diving over for what would be the only five-pointer of the contest.
Turning at 10-3 to the visitors, the wind actually died, but Hamilton BHS was ignited, playing some tactically sound footy and tackling like demons. All its good work may have been for nought were it not for a trysaving tackle by No 12 Mikaere Beattie on St Kent’s right wing Harry Marks. And while it was a challenging day for halfbacks – HBHS skipper and No 9 Harrison Levien struggled with his clearance – the home pack started to take control with some strong-arm driving play, pressuring a St Kent’s team unaccustomed to being placed under such heat. Twice flanker Blake Bolli nearly plunged over. By the 67-minute mark, three Bryn Gatland penalty goals had edged HBHS to 9-10. But the pivot, son of Barbarian Warren, called for the ball and potted the goal, his first of the season.
The fulltime whistle sounded. Cue joyous scenes of jubilation as fellow Hamilton students and family flooded the pitch for a sweet, sweet victory, capping a fine day for Waikato rugby.
An emotional co-coach Nigel Hotham said it was hard to compare this national title with the shared trophy of 2008 (with Auckland’s De La Salle) and 2009 over Christchurch’s St Bede’s College.
“In 2008 we cried after that. We were so hard on ourselves to win. Drawing it just wasn’t the same. In 2009 we got away on St Bede’s and it was relatively comfortable. That was a wonderful win for a team that was under-rated. This is a fantastic team of young men with strong leadership and basically nice boys too. Nice boys don’t always win championships, but these boys did,” said Hotham, who has won the Moascar Cup three times with two different schools.
Barbarians President Mike Mills presented Levien with the NZ Barbarians Cup while the Moascar Cup will stay in the Hamilton BHS trophy cabinet for the summer.
Other Barbarians on hand were club captain Mark Moore and Keith Quinn, who does a sterling job as the TV commentator for the Rugby Channel’s First XV coverage.
September 14 (Hamilton BHS, Hamilton): Hamilton Boys’ High School 12 (Pens: Bryn Gatland 3; DG: Gatland) beat St Kentigern College 10 (Try: TJ Faiane; Con: William Raea; Pen: Raea); Halftime: 10-3 St Kent’s
No less than four boys from each of Hamilton BHS and St Kent’s have made the New Zealand Schools cut for the looming three-match tour of Australia.
From the former, Levien and Gatland will be joined by lock Sam Chongkit and wing Isaac Te Tamaki, while St Kent’s will be celebrating the selections of loose forwards Blake Gibson and Dillon Wihongi and midfielders TJ Faiane and Jonathan Fa’auli. Wihongi and Faiane are making the step up from the successful, unbeaten 2012 NZ Barbarians Schools squad, as are loose forwards Mitchell Jacobson (Cambridge High School) and Mitchell Karpik (King’s College) and No 10 Damian McKenzie (Christ’s College).
Dave Dillon, the former Waikato and Thames Valley loose forward, who helped guide the NZ Barbarians Schools last season, is at the helm, aided by Darren Larsen. This team will play an Auckland Schools XV next month.
The 24-strong squad includes several captains, such as hooker Seko Pole of Otago Boys’ High School, lock Harry Fitzsimons of Auckland Grammar School and impressive flanker James Blackwell of Wellington College.
Hamilton Boys’ High School No 8 Tallis Karaitiana has also made this team.
The New Zealand Barbarians Schools squad for 2013:
Jermaine Ainsley (Otago Boys’ High School)
Willie (Junior) Halafuka (Auckland Grammar School)
Keilan Henry (Feilding High School)
Sekope Lopeti (Marlborough Boys’ College)
Sekonaia Pole (Otago Boys’ High School)
Harry Fitzsimons (Auckland Grammar School)
Fin Hoeata (Dilworth School)
Jack Sherratt (King’s College)
James Blackwell (Wellington College)
Tallis Karaitiana (Hamilton Boys’ High School)
Mungo Mason (Tauranga Boys’ College)
Hugh Renton (Lindisfarne College)
Liam Howley (Southland Boys’ High School)
Lisati Milo-Harris (St Peter’s College)
Daniel Hollinshead (Tauranga Boys’ College)
Josh Ioane (Kings College)
Fin Hart-Strawbridge (Nelson College)
Patelesio Tomkinson (Otago Boys’ High School)
Malo Tuitama (Scots College)
Solomon Alaimalo (St Bede’s College)
Fletcher Matthews (Waimea College)
Fereti Soloa (Naenae College )
Jordan Trainor (St Peter’s College)