1st XV defeat Sacred Heart on the way to 1A Final!

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First XV

Sacred Heart College

29 – 22

Win

For the first time since 2010, King’s College will return to Eden Park next Saturday to contest the Auckland Schools 1A Rugby final against St. Peters College. It has been eight years since we last made the final and we are now all very excited about the prospect of winning a title for only the second time in around 50 years. The last time King’s was Champion was in 2005 and the Coaches that year were Jim Dickin and Mark Kennelly. It is no small coincidence then, that Mark is back in control of the team this year, assisted by Kevin Putt and Scott Palmer, that has strung together some stunning results throughout the season, scoring the highest number of points for, having the least amount of points scored against us and scoring the most number of tries of all the teams in the 1A competition. All up, the team has now played 17 matches, winning 15 of those with one draw (with Sacred Heart) and one loss (to St. Kents). Having finished second behind St. Kent’s College gave us a home semi-final against Sacred Heart College on Saturday and we believe this gave us an advantage that in the end saw us reach the final after a very tight and physical encounter by the score of 29 – 22. The last time we met was at Sacred Heart College in round 4 and the game ended in a 17-all draw.

Jamie Jensen and his team had prepared a firm, fast pitch and the weather was stunning – blue skies and a light wind blowing from the Pavilion end of the field towards the Great Hall end of the school. There was a huge crowd in attendance, probably somewhere between 2000 – 3000 people. The boys started the match very well and really took control of the game to Sacred Heart. It wasn’t long before the team was rewarded for some great play with a try scored by fullback Aidan Morgan. The conversion was missed but it was not long before we were back on attack. Our two props Levi Ukuakiahoia offloaded to Leandro Vakatini, who ran a beautiful line and passed to center Lukas Halls who scored one of the best tries of the season to push us out to 10 – 0. From the re-start, we were pushed to the fault and the Sacred Heart kicker converted the penalty to reduce the margin to just 7 points. King’s got back into their work and put a series of phases together, forcing Sacred to leave a gap around a ruck, which halfback Thorn Parkes ran through to score under the posts. Morgan converted, and King’s held a healthy 17 – 3 lead. The boys continued to move the bigger Sacred Heart pack around and created several more opportunities but lacked accuracy in finishing off these chances that would have probably put the game out of reach for Sacred Heart. Slowly Sacred Heart grafted their way back into the game using their big forwards as battering rams. A couple of missed tackles allowed them to break through our defense and they were rewarded with a converted try to bring the half to a close with us leading 17 – 10.

The second half started the same as the first with the boys holding onto the ball and stringing together a large number of phases before our hard-working Captain Millenium Sanerivi crashed over out wide. Morgan was again unable to convert, but we needed to score again to put the score out of reach for Sacred. To their credit, they never gave in and came storming back onto attack. Some of our defense was poor again and this allowed them to score another converted try to bring them back to 22 -17. The ball went from end to end with neither team unable to breach the others’ try-line. Eventually, Sacred created good pressure near our goal-line and their halfback scored a try to tie up the scores 22 – all. The conversion sailed wide and everyone prepared for a fast and furious final 10 minutes. The coaches had made several subs and eventually cleared the bench for a frantic final few minutes. Sacred started to play some strong rugby and set up a drop goal that sailed wide of the posts. King’s went back onto attack and created the final knockout blow, only for a wayward pass to see the ball end up over the side-line. Sacred came back into our half and were awarded a penalty about 40 meters out. Once again, the shot at goal sailed wide and the score remained 22 – all with couple of minutes to play. If the score remained the same, we would have qualified as we had drawn our pool match and had scored more tries than Sacred in this match (4 – 3). With time almost up on the clock, King’s ended up back inside the Sacred 22m and used the forwards to pick and drive towards the Sacred try-line. When one of our forwards was stopped just short of the line replacement halfback Dayton Lobu scooped up the ball and dived over next to the posts. Aidan Morgan converted, the ball was retained from the kick-off for the final few seconds and was booted into touch to end an intense and exciting semi-final with the scoreboard reading King’s 29 – Sacred 22.

The whole squad is to be congratulated for a fine job, and are deserving of their place in the final, but the biggest hurdle of all still remains as we head to Eden Park next Saturday to take on St. Peters College who upset previously undefeated and firm favourites for the title – St. Kent’s at their home ground in Pakuranga. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and we hope to see a ‘sea of maroon’ supporters there to witness what could be history in the making for our very proud College.