For the first time in the history of the Auckland 1A First XV finals, since 1996, we have a MAGS-Sacred Heart decider.
The only two Auckland schools to have never been demoted from the top echelon of First XV rugby are deserved finalists after two contrasting semifinals on the weekend.
Sacred Heart upset St Kentigern 22-17 on the latter's home turf after having suffered three semifinal defeats in four seasons to the private school, who were the defending champions.
Again working off their peerless scrum, Sacred Heart made the early running and scored the opening try to wing Melino Huihui'Uia after some top lead-up work by standout No 8 Hoskins Sotutu. Captain Jack McHugh carried strongly and was omnipresent at the breakdown in a man of the match display.
But St Kentigern regained the initiative thanks to a double by dangerous fullback Etene Nanai, the first a team effort, and the second a brilliant solo try from more than 50m out.
Sacred Heart, however, found an extra gear in the last 20 minutes, and Terry Pongi's try from a pick and go gave them that impetus, while St Kentigern hooker Sam Toloke was binned for cynical play. At 17-all with three minutes to run, Sacred Heart centre Lemeki Namoa dived over from a close range pick and go. Fulltime saw jubilant scenes from the Sacred Heart students, who had come in numbers.
MAGS righted the ship after a loss 10 days ago, lowering St Peter's 30-10 in their semifinal, to confirm their favouritism for the final. Watched by the last MAGS captain to lift the 1A (and Top 4) title, Michael Fatialofa, MAGS roared to a 20-0 halftime lead, with a Salyn Tonu'u try, sparked by a Rob Cobb charge, and a superb solo try via a chip and regather by fullback Niven Longopoa.
MAGS and Sacred Heart will face off at Eden Park this Saturday.
*Hastings BHS have won their first Super 8 in emphatic style, 30-8 over defending champions Hamilton BHS in the wet of the Hawke's Bay. A clinical forward effort was complemented by two tries to No 10 Lincoln McClutchie. Mark Ozich's team, unbeaten thus far in a red-letter season, will now play runners-up from the Wellington Weltec Premiership, St Patrick's Town, in the Hurricanes Top 4 semifinal. Town lost 12-9 in a tight, tryless final at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua on Sunday to Wellington College, who clinched their first premiership since 2013.
Coll fullback Reece Plumtree, son of Hurricanes assistant John Plumtree, showed a cool head under pressure to slot four out of five off the tee, including the winner in the last seconds.
*The Central North Island competition comes down to an all-Waikato affair in Saturday's final after defending champion St Paul's Collegiate defeated Lindisfarne 25-11. They will play St Peter's of Cambridge who beat St John's of Hastings 41-20 in a messy game.
The St Peter's forwards generally were on top and again their lineout drive was very effective, but too many errors at key times made for a stop-start affair. Stand-in captain James Thompson led St Peter's well and he was the pick the forwards. Rewita Biddle and Oria Andrews in the backline were a handful. St Peter's now look forward to Saturday's final.
Wesley warmed up for a Chiefs Top 4 semifinal with Rotorua BHS by thumping Rathkeale 59-0.
*Westlake BHS are into the North Harbour 1A final - no surprises there after seeing off Whangarei BHS 32-5 in one semifinal - but their opponents are not the usual suspects and second qualifiers Rosmini, but Massey, who tipped them over 13-11. The defence of second five Sebastien Tielu was a real feature for the west Aucklanders, who last won the title in 2011. But it was the nerveless late penalty goal by reserve kicker Ryan McMillan that sealed the upset victory. Westlake and Massey will do battle on Thursday as the curtainraiser to the Mitre 10 Cup opener at QBE Stadium.
*St John's of Hamilton have taken out the inaugural Counties Manukau/Waikato premiership after beating Manurewa 22-7 in the final. Pukekohe won the Plate by downing Rosehill 46-5.
*There were two significant upsets in the South Island, as John McGlashan edged Otago BHS 17-15, which means they will now play Southland BHS to find the Highlanders champions.
In the UC Championship, top qualifiers Christ's College were tipped over by No 4 seeds Shirley BHS 17-14 in atrocious conditions in Christchurch. Two early tries to props Darius Fidow and Jim Tuipulotu were telling, as was the work-rate of man of the match Cruz Topai-Avea. Shirley's defence was staunch under severe pressure late in the match. A fine solo effort after a strip in the maul by Christ's No 12 Dallas McLeod, plus the boot of captain Ngane Punivai, had hauled the favourites back into the contest, but Shirley's Jackson Taylor broke the 14-all deadlock with a 63rd minute penalty.
Shirley will now face Christchurch BHS, who edged Nelson 10-3 in the second semifinal.
North Harbour 1A semifinals:
Westlake BHS 32 Whangarei BHS 5
Massey 13 Rosmini 11
Auckland 1A semifinals:
MAGS 30 St Peter's 10
Sacred Heart 22 (Melino Huihui'Uia, Terry Pongi, Lemeki Namoa tries; Ben Engels 2 con, pen) St Kentigern 17 (Etene Nanai 2 tries; Carlos Price 2 con, pen) HT: 10-7 St Kentigern
Auckland 1B Championship semifinals:
Tamaki 22 Tangaroa 8
Liston 34 One Tree Hill 5
Counties Manukau/Waikato final:
St John's (Hamilton) 22 Manurewa 7
Counties Manukau/Waikato plate final:
Pukekohe 46 Rosehill 5
Super 8 final:
Hastings BHS 30 Hamilton BHS 8
Central North Island:
St. Peter's (Cambridge) 41 St John's (Hastings) 20
Wesley 59 Rathkeale 0
St Paul's Collegiate 25 Lindisfarne 11
Francis Douglas Memorial 45 Wanganui Collegiate 25
Wellington 12 (Reece Plumtree 4 pen) St Pat's Town 9 (Luke Georgeson 3 pen) HT: 6-3 Town
UC Championship semifinals:
Christchurch BHS 10 Nelson 3
Shirley BHS 17 (Darius Fidow, Jim Tuipulotu tries; Taine Jacobs-Lawson 2 con, Jackson Taylor pen) Christ's 14 (Dallas McLeod try; Ngane Punivai 3 pen) HT: 14-11
Otago Top 4 playoff:
John McGlashan 17 Otago BHS 15