Centre Max Ireland scored a hat-trick as St John's College of Hastings beat their Hamilton counterparts with the same name 29-17 to win the Matt Cooper Boot trophy for the first time in five years in Hastings today.
The hosts relished their first taste of a live televised match to claim the boot for the eighth time in 20 encounters. St John's Hamilton have won it on 11 occasion and one match was drawn.
The boot was donated by former All Black Matt Cooper, a former student of the Hastings school, who was among the Sky Television commentators at the venue. A former Magpie and Waikato player, Cooper, had a boot in both camps as his son Harrison attended St John's College in Hamilton from 2010 to 2014.
The hosts led 19-0 at halftime. Outstanding centre Ireland, one of six third-year 1st XV players in the Hastings team and a product of the Havelock North age group system, scored his first try in the third minute . Eleven minutes later left winger Emanuelu Lemuelu scored after good forward pressure was applied.
Dynamic halfback Mitchell McLeod, a son of former Magpies first five-eighth Ross McLeod, converted. Ireland had his second try seconds before the halftime whistle after McLeod sparked a counter attack. McLeod again converted.
The visitors made a strong start to the second half and were rewarded with a try to powerful winger Joe Robwata in the 36th minute of the 70-minute clash.
Ireland completed his hat-trick in the 46th minute after a clever break from his second five-eighth Kere Penetito. McLeod added the extras.
Outstanding second five-eighth Hausia Vea scored his first try for the visitors after a solo run in the 51st minute. Centre Mahaki-Jay Hetet-Wairau converted.
Any hope the visitors had of a late comeback was dashed when McLeod put the hosts 29-12 ahead with a 55th minute penalty. Vea scored his second try in the 62nd minute.
This was a first round fixture in the Central North Island competition and one aspect of play the Hastings team will need to improve if they want to be a force in the competition this season is their penalty count. They conceded 12 penalties, six more than the Hamilton side.
"I'm so proud of the team. You could see the heart and passion in the boys," elated St John's College Hastings captain and lock Ben Gardiner said afterwards.
"We've been training a lot and it's good to see the boys finishing things off," added the son of former Magpies lock Alan Gardiner.
The visitors captain and hooker Kees Mortleman admitted his side didn't execute as well as they should have and didn't support their ball carriers enough.
All of the St John's Hastings players deserve praise for their efforts. McLeod, Ireland and fullback Ryan Lindeque were classy in the winning backline.
Gardiner, No 8 Caleb Burke and prop Caden Mouat-Harvey were prominent in a dominant host pack.
St John's College (Hastings) 29 (Max Ireland 3, Emanuelu Lemuelu tries; Mitchell McLeod 3 cons, pen), St John's College (Hamilton) 17 (Hausia Vea 2, Joe Robwata tries; Mahaki-Jay Hetet-Wairau con). HT: 19-0.