Winger Joeli Rauca knew he had to redeem himself and he did as his Hastings Boys High School's first XV rugby side booked a berth in the Hurricanes region final today.
"I had to make the coaches happy again and it's a good feeling to have done it," Rauca said following his team's 37-10 win over St Patrick's Silverstream of Wellington in the Hastings-hosted semifinal.
He was referring to his failure to secure a high ball late in the first half which led to a penalty try being awarded to the visitors when a Hastings player took a Silverstream player out without the ball in a tryscoring situation. Rauca, who had scored the hosts first try in the 20th minute, made up for that mishap in the first minute of the second half when he pounced on a loose ball and scored.
"This is my second year and last here at school and I really want to help the boys make the National Top Four competition after we missed out last year," Rauca explained.
"I love it here in New Zealand ... there are so many opportunities," said the Suva-raised Rauca who is staying with former Magpies flanker Jeff Karika and his wife Caren in Hastings.
"I'll be going home to Suva for Christmas and then I will be back to link up with the Magpies academy. I want to play for the Magpies in the future," Rauca said.
He pointed out having a rest from playing last weekend was the key to the hosts improved display today.
"We were able to freshen up and focus on the school ball and then focus on our buildup to this match. Communication was a big work on for us in the buildup and it was good out there," Rauca added.
First five-eighth Latrell Ah Kiong was again outstanding for the Hastings side which had no passengers. His options were spot on and he succeeded with three of his five attempts at goal in tricky windy conditions.
The Hastings forward pack was much more cohesive than in their 13-5 loss to Hamilton Boys' High School in the Super 8 final a fortnight ago. Locks Emil Crichton and Julian Goerke were inspirational.
The defensive work of the Hastings side improved big time. The fact the only try they leaked was a penalty try speaks volumes.
Silverstream opened the scoring with a fourth minute penalty to first five-eighth Riley Higgins. Ah Kiong put Rauca in for his first try and Crichton broke away from a lineout to score and put the hosts ahead 10-3 before the visitors were awarded their penalty try to tie the score at 10-all before the interval.
Ah Kiong converted Rauca's second try to give Hastings an early lead in the second half. A clever tactical kick from Ah Kiong lead to winger Mefi Tupou's try with 18 minutes remaining. An Ah Kiong penalty five minutes later put the hosts ahead 25-10.
Quick hands led to fullback Mercedes Hodge's try which Ah Kiong converted with six minutes remaining. It was appropriate Ah Kiong should have the final say with his try just before the fulltime whistle.
Delighted HBHS manager and former Magpies halfback Jason Bird said it was the first time this season his troops had adapted to the weather conditions and stuck to a game plan appropriate to the conditions.
"We were able to apply pressure in the right parts of the field, force turnovers and capitalise on them. At the same time we must congratulate Silverstream on what they have achieved this year with a young team."
St Patrick's Silverstream conceded 15 points while Warriors-bound captain and second five-eighth Rocco Berry, the son of former All Black Marty Berry, was in the sinbin following a shoulder charge. While Berry could question Manawatu referee Jacob Booth, who gave a polished display with the whistle, why he spent almost four more minutes in the bin than he should have that factor would not have changed the outcome of the match.
Hastings Boys' High School will take on the winner of today's other semifinal between Scots College of Wellington and Palmerston North Boys' High School, which kicked off at 2.30pm in Wellington, in next weekend's Palmerston North-hosted final.
Hastings Boys' High School 37 (Joeli Rauca 2, Emil Crichton, Mefi Tupou, Mercedes Hodge, Latrell Ah Kiong tries; Ah Kiong 2 cons, pen), St Patrick's Silverstream 10 (penalty try; Riley Higgins pen). HT: 10-all.