Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV rugby captain and No 8 Liam Udy-Johns made sure his last game on the school's No 1 ground was one to remember on Saturday.
The 18-year-old third-year 1st XV player scored a hattrick as HBHS, the national and Hurricanes champions beat Palmerston North Boys' High School 43-21 to secure a Hurricanes competition semifinal against St Patrick's College, Silverstream in the capital this Saturday.
"It was the last game at home for a few of us today so it was good to go out like that. That will give us huge confidence for next week," Udy-Johns explained.
"We had several guys out with injuries so it was good our young bucks stepped up in the manner they did too. We just need to fix up our discipline," he said referring to the fact they were on the wrong end of a 12-6 penalty count.
All of the HBHS players deserve praise for the improvement shown on the 26-0 loss to Hamilton Boys' High School in their previous game a fortnight ago. Udy-Johns pointed out his troops managed to have a few days away from rugby after the match against Hamilton and the break freshened them up.
While Udy-Johns was an inspirational leader lock Emil Crichton and prop Zac Southwick were also prominent in the winning pack. Year 11 player Eldius Oli, who got a start in the absence of regular fullback Gideon Kautai, was classy.
First five-eighth Shamara Brooks was forced from the field with an injury eight minutes before halftime. This forced a reshuffle with Charlie Varcoe coming off the subs bench to play halfback, starting halfback Latrell Ah Kiong switching to centre and the starting midfield combination of Andrew Hayward and Jordan Thompson-Dunn both moving in one position respectively.
Despite these changes the exciting HBHS backline still functioned well and managed to send Fijian flyer Michael Naitokani in for two spectacular tries. Thompson-Dunn was again a rock on defence and sensible with his options.
Taradale Rugby and Sports age group product Stewart Cruden directed the Palmy side well from first five-eighth despite playing with two damaged ribs collected while training with the Manawatu Turbos Mitre 10 Cup squad. Cruden did well to slot four of his five attempts at goal in a tricky wind.
Winger Will Treder made the most of his limited opportunities in the losing backline while No 8 Elyjah Crosswell, a nephew of Turbos forward Nick Crosswell, and substitute lock Trevor Shane Baker had high workrates in the Palmy pack.
HBHS 43 (Liam Udy-Johns 3, Michael Naitokani 2, Damarus Hokianga, Jordan Thompson-Dunn tries; Latrell Ah Kiong 3, Thompson-Dunn cons), PNBHS 21 (Nasser Tato, Will Treder tries; Stewart Cruden 3 pens, con). HT: 17-16.