The much-vaunted "Cage" is about to strike fear again - and not just to visiting rugby teams.
The pride of St Peters College has hosted many epic battles over the years but the ground, across the road from the school, has undergone a major transformation and will return to life as a dual purpose ground serving the school's top rugby and soccer teams.
As the first artificial football field at an Auckland secondary school, the Cage will be a groundbreaker.
While the development cost remains "price sensitive," a "significant" sum has been poured into the facility which will host first XV rugby and first XI soccer matches. In past seasons, the school's top soccer team has endured something of a nomadic life with matches played elsewhere.
The new turf, the culmination of a concerted effort led by St Peters headmaster Kieran Fouhy, is seen by the school as a great addition to their sporting facilities which include a new gymnasium (completed in 2010) which is home to two basketball courts along with another artificial area at the school's Mountain Rd home.
The first XV trained on the ground on Monday for the first time and will play their first home game against De La Salle on Saturday week. That game has special significance as it will not only pit two proud Catholic boys' schools against each other but will coerce De La Salle principal Myles Hogarty to return to the school he left after 26 years at St Peters to take up his new role on Monday.
Before these two schools meet, the St Peters 1st XV will take the short walk to Auckland Grammar this Saturday for another game of special significance.
The clash between the closest neighbours in Auckland school sport will mark 50 years since St Peters first beat AGS in 1962.
To mark the occasion, a group of players from that St Peters team have organised a reunion including a pre-match lunch. They have also donated a trophy - the Henry Cooper-Br. Paddy Ryan Rugby Challenge Cup - to be contested annually between the long-time rivals.
Fifteen of the 23 players from that St Peters squad will be at the reunion along with coach Brother Graeme Donaldson who will fly up from Dunedin. The only deceased team member is Joe Parkinson.
That 1962 encounter was won 3-0 by St Peters with Tony Milich scoring the match-winning try against an AGS team which included future All Blacks Peter Whiting and Grahame Thorne. That game came a year after the first game in the Cage - won by Auckland Grammar. After that epic 1962 triumph, it was 20 years before St Peters beat AGS. Since that 1982 win, St Peters have won in 1984, 1987, 1996, 2000, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 1990 and 1991 games were drawn.
National champions Kelston BHS have added the Sanix Cup to their impressive record with a 37-24 win over England's Truro College in the final in Japan.
The victory completed a great run for Kelston at the tournament.
After dropping one pool match - 17-15 to Canadian school Shawnigan Lake School despite scoring three tries to one - KBHS were unstoppable in their other five matches running in a total of 33 tries.
After wins over local Japanese schools in their other two matches to finish top of their pool, KBHS beat Gose Industrial High School 43-7 scoring seven tries. They followed that quarter-final win with a five-try romp and a 34-11 win over Tonga College in the semifinals before going on to beat Truro College in the final - scoring another six tries - to claim the title as world schoolboy champions.
Kelston BHS continue a strong showing by New Zealand schools at the tournament which was first played in 2000.
Rotorua BHS (2003 and 2004), Christchurch BHS (2005 and 2006) and Hamilton BHS (2010 and 2011) have previously claimed the honours with New Zealand schools winning seven of 13 finals.
In second round action in the 1A championship, MAGS fell behind early but finished strongly to beat Kings 24-15 in a match played at Colin Maiden Park.
Tim Maskell gave Kings the early advantage with a well-executed try before David Hala'ufia kicked two penalties for a 6-5 lead. Those successful kicks were followed by a try when Brody Lam and Blake Hohaia combined well together to put Hohaia over in the corner.
They were able to extend their lead right on halftime when winger Irae Simone made a powerful run down the left wing and passed to Wheriko Tawhiri who pushed himself over the line to claim what was almost a length-of-the-field try for a 16-5 halftime lead.
Immediately after the resumption Hala'ufia kicked another penalty for a 19-5 lead which increased to 24-5 when Elias Goodhue scored.
To their credit, Kings fought back with a try to Kahu Ingram and right on time Liam Van Der Drift crashed over handy to the posts. However, a rushed conversion attempt was astray, and a precious bonus point for Kings was missed for the second week in a row.
In an enthralling encounter in which the lead changed four times, the Onehunga High players were left wondering how they did not secure the win over St Peters.
Sustained periods of attack in the second half by Onehunga were thwarted by an outstanding defensive St Peters effort. Leading the way in this area were midfielder Vince Aso and openside flanker Trevor Steffany.
Onehunga managed to cross the line only once in the second half with a try to blindside flanker Semisi Pepa. This gave them a 15-12 lead with eight minutes to play but they were unable to hold on as Matt Johnson scored a try in the final few minutes to regain the lead for St Peters who still had to hold out some frenzied late attacks from Onehunga.
Among Onehunga's best were Karl Ofanoa and Pepa who dominated lineout proceedings and were good in general play.
Man of the match went to tireless St Peters lock Anthony Casey.
Sacred Heart made it two-from-two with their 58-0 romp away to Tamaki. Solomone Kata ran in three tries and kicked two conversions while Jerome Teinakore also crossed twice.
Defending champions St Kentigern beat De La Salle 30-13 to record their second win to join MAGS and AGS in second equal place a point behind Sacred Heart who have scored two bonus point wins.
WBHS, Massey High and Rosmini - the big three in the 1A championship - continue to avoid each other in the opening rounds of the North Harbour Championship but the days of simply turning up and collecting maximum points might be running out.
In the feature match of Saturday's second round Takapuna Grammar took plenty of confidence into their home game against WBHS and immediately challenged the visitors with their haka in front of a large crowd.
From the kick-off it was clear that Westlake wanted to use their bigger forward pack to dominate upfront. They employed their powerful midfield runners to outmuscle Takapuna which resulted in a try to fullback Thomas Gumbley who capitalised on a two-man overlap to score.
The home side hit back courtesy of fullback Logan O'Toole after the WBHS backline was exposed. With the successful conversion, TGS led 7-5 but a mistake at the breakdown saw first-five Curtis Reid step up and kick the penalty to put Westlake back in front.
Again the hosts hit back with strong running from their midfield combination of second-five Kahu von Sturmer-Karanui and centre Sean Wainui, giving winger Salu Mainu'u the space he needed to score in the corner. A late Westlake penalty closed the gap at halftime to 12-11 in favour of the home side.
The second half was dominated by the favoured WBHS side. Big prop Eliesa Taufateau scored after strong forward play and elusive running from flanker Ruben Esterhuyse. Eliesa soon crossed for his second while TGS had a player in the sin bin. Two tries were then run in by twins Sean (halfback) and Callum Law (reserve back), sealing a bonus point 38-12 win. Takapuna face another big challenge this week on the short trip to Rosmini where they will again feature in the match of the day. Danny Drake
Hamilton BHS shrugged off the disadvantage of playing away from home to beat St Peters School 39-0 in their traditional fixture which was televised live. Both sides took some time to get into the game, but the visitors took control midway through the first spell to take a 20-0 halftime lead and went on to win comfortably, scoring five tries, four of them converted, plus two penalty goals. Big Hamilton lock Kaleb Foote showed exceptional skill at the lineouts, securing a lot of quality, clean possession for his side.
Fancied MAGS and Sacred Heart kicked-off the premier league season with convincing victories as did St Kentigern but AGS found the going tougher in being held 1-1 by KBHS who had beaten off the challenge from Glendowie to hold their place in the top division.
Defending premiers MAGS faced promoted Takapuna Grammar at home and quickly had the Dave Coshan-coached visitors under pressure. But despite dominating the first half hour, MAGS squandered many chances and eventually fell behind when a MAGS defender gave away a ball in the TGS midfield zone.
Moritz Kuhl intercepted, found striker Bernard Rodrigues and he made the most of another defensive lapse to speed past his markers, cut in from the right and beat Cameron Hogg in the MAGS goal with a powerful drive into the roof of the net for a 1-0 lead which they held until the break.
MAGS needed only six minutes of the second half to get back to 1-1 when a shot from Connor Stoton rebounded to Nayuta Nagai on the edge of the box from where he drilled the ball home.
The home side took the lead minutes later when Cory Adams pounced on a rebound off the crossbar to score. Monty Patterson increased their advantage to 3-1 in the 66th minute before coach Kevin Fallon introduced his final two substitutes with Dylan Bracey replaced by Fox Slotemaker at right back and 14-year-old striker Shaun Bennett also coming into the game as the pair made their first team debuts.
Connor Stoton added the fourth in the 75th minute driving a left-foot shot in off the crossbar. He also cashed in when a loose pass was presented to him on the edge of the penalty area to complete the 5-1 victory.
"We have to be much more clinical when the chances are created or presented to us," said Fallon. "I never panicked or ever felt we wouldn't win but we made hard work of it."
National champions Sacred Heart never looked back after a dream start and went on to beat WBHS 3-0 away.
Both teams started brightly, but after only four minutes, a moment of sheer class saw Peter Jones ghost into the penalty area and dink a side-footed pass through three defenders to give Stephen Carmichael a one-on-one against the isolated WBHS goalkeeper.
From that point the home side appeared somewhat deflated and Sacred Heart enjoyed much of the possession and resultant goal-scoring opportunities. After half an hour Ben Thomas put Carmichael through on goal again only for him to be brought down for a clear penalty. Anthony Cibilich made no mistake and put the visitors further ahead.
WBHS came out strongly in the second half determined to close down and bustle the Sacred Heart players in an attempt to force mistakes.
Despite causing the game to be somewhat scrappy through the midfield, the home side made little headway against a solid and well-organised SHC defence - their best chance being a disallowed offside goal.
Not long after the hour mark Thomas broke down the left after Sacred Heart again played out cleverly from the back. He neatly played in Carmichael who turned and finished for his well-deserved second to seal the game and claim the three points.