The Napier Boys’ High School First XV isn’t finding it hard to get rid of the notions of revenge and complacency as they target their first Super 8 schools rugby title in 20 years.
On Saturday the Blues will be playing the final against top-seed and near perennial winners Hamilton Boys’ High School. Hamilton scored a last-minute try to beat Napier 17-15 in last year’s national schools final and kicked a last-minute penalty to win 23-22 the last time the schools met in the more-regional Super 8 final in 2018.
In the round-robin stages of this year’s competition Napier beat Hamilton 17-15, the first Napier victory in the schools’ first XV matches since 2011.
NBHS coach Dave Russell said it’s both a new game and a new year, as is often the case at school first XV level where only a few get to play as many as three seasons, and while others get only the one shot it.
Each side needs their experienced hands, who include captain and loosehead prop Tasman Soanai-Oeti who now has 50 first XV games behind him and has scored 12 tries this season, making him equal No 1 try scorer with midfield back C.J. Mienie.
“We should be at full strength,” he said, knowing that just being at full strength won’t be enough to beat Hamilton and long-time coach Nigel Hotham, whose teams have won eight of the last 11 Super 8 finals, and drawn one.
Thus, having played the last round-robin match in last week’s Polson Banner draw against Palmerston Boys HS, it was raining this week on Monday, and Tuesday, a day off Wednesday and training again on Thursday, before travelling to Hamilton on Friday.
It’s possibly as much a preparation for the game, as it is preparation for the types of professional rugby careers some are likely to face in the next few years.
“They’ve given themselves the opportunity to be there by qualifying for the final,” Russell said. “The big thing is they do believe in themselves.”
Napier had hopes of it being a home final, a chance which disappeared in the combined equation of last week’s drawn result and Hastings’ defeat in an unsuccessful Moascar Cup challenge in Hamilton last Saturday.
A Hastings win would have eliminated Hamilton from Super 8 contention and gifted Napier a home final against Tauranga Boys’ College. Hastings gave it a good shot, at 15-11 at halftime and 18-15 down with 16 minutes to go before Hamilton sealed the result with the last two tries.
Another trophy at stake on Saturday will be historic sub-unions senior rugby prize the Bebington Shield which Central Hawke’s Bay will defend against Northern Whanganui at Tikokino.
It will be a home side brimming with confidence and hope of bringing lustre back to the trophy competition, after warming-up with an 18-17 win over NPC Heartland union Ngāti Porou East Coast (NPEC) at the Ōtāne Domain on Saturday.
Central Hawke’s Bay’s last defence of the shield, which has struggled for matches amid the decline of rugby and club networks in rural areas, was a 27-20 win over Dannevirke in July 2021, and the next-most-recent other defences were a 76-13 win over Northern Whanganui in 2018 and a 65-10 win over Rangitīkei in 2014.
The sub-union is striving to rejuvenate country rugby and players came from senior-grades clubs Central, Waipawa Country United, Ōtāne , Pōrangahau and Takapau, and colts-only club Onga-Tiko.
Earlier, a Central Hawke’s Bay Under-18 team beat NPEC Under-18, 31-10.
The main game came with several top-line Central Hawke’s Bay players committed for the season to such other teams as the Hawke’s Bay Magpies, who on Friday had a 38-31 win in a pre-NPC hitout against Waikato in Taupō, the Hawke’s Bay Development side beat the Whanganui Heartland Championship team 40-33 in Taihape, and Waikato beat Hawke’s Bay 60-19 in an under-19 match.
Among other games at the weekend were Te Matau a Mauī Hawke’s Bay Māori’s four-tries-to-three 26-19 win in Wairoa over the Wairoa sub-union side preparing for the first defence of the Barry Cup centennial year. Te Matau a Mauī's tries, three of which were converted by Clive player Jayden Falcon, were scored by Cruz Davies, Ethan Smith, Trent Conway and prolific try-scoring Aotea club wing Sam Jones, while Wairoa’s tries went to Matrix Paul, Credence Burton and Kaihau Pasikala, who also kicked two conversions.
Hawke’s Bay Development’s points in Taihape came from tries to Xavier McCorkindale, Majela Tufuga, Semi Vodosese, Iakopo Mapu, Al Momoisea, and Cooper Flanders tries, with five converted by Hera Stephenson.
The Magpies open their Bunnings NPC season against North Harbour in Napier on Saturday starting at 5.05pm, and the Tui play Wellington at the Hutt Recreation Ground, while at Elwood Park, Hastings, on Saturday Hawke’s Bay hosts Te Tini, a Māori representative tournament this year for teams from Wellington to Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, and to which Wairoa have also been invited.