In-form Napier Boys' High School 1st XV rugby centre Jack Sheridan is confident his team will complete a successful revenge mission against Palmerston North Boys' High School in 10 days.
"That was our first game in the wet and mud all season. We know what we need to do now ... heaps of pick and goes," Sheridan said after the Sky Blues' 27-15 away loss to Palmerston North in today's 115th edition of the annual Polson Banner clash.
"While our defence was pretty average in the first half we dug deep in the second and we still believe we could have come back and got the win. But it wasn't to be," Sheridan explained.
"We'll have a couple of boys back from injury when we play them next time," Sheridan said, referring to their August 10 match in Palmy which will be a Hurricanes competition knockout match in the qualifying series for the National Top Four competition.
Today's match doubled as a seventh round Super 8 fixture but retaining the banner was the visitors main goal as for 11 of the 22 squad it was their final banner clash.
The Polson Banner is one of the oldest interschool rugby trophies up for grabs in New Zealand. It was first played for in 1907 but "backdated" to 1904 to record all of the fixtures between the schools.
The original silk banner was donated by the 1902-12 NBHS headmaster, A.S. Polson, and has the colours and the crest of the two respective schools on the reverse sides. The years of each team's wins have been embroidered on the banner over the years.
Sheridan, who impressed with his defensive work throughout the match, opened the scoring with a try in the seventh minute after the visitors had dominated possession early. Palmy replied with a try to outstanding fullback and player-of-the-match Ruben Love in the 20th minute.
The hosts took the lead in the 26th minute when loosehead prop Nasser Tato crashed over from close range. Love added the conversion.
Three minutes before halftime Palmerston North second five-eighth Josh Ellingham scored to give the hosts a 17-5 halftime lead. Halfback Angus Kilmister kept NBHS in the hunt with his 47th minute try.
However when Palmy's substitute hooker Darius Mafileo crashed over in the 63rd minute and Love converted to give the hosts a 24-10 lead it was always going to be tough for NBHS. There was a glimmer of hope when substitute prop Reece Henderson scored in the 59th minute from a pick and go.
It was appropriate Love should have the final say with a late penalty. This was the 64th time Palmy has won the banner, NBHS has won it on 46 occasions and five of the matches have been drawn.
"It's been a long three years and for me that was my last opportunity," a delighted third-year first XV player Love said afterwards.
He was referring to the fact the previous two banner matches were won by the Sky Blues.
"It's very disappointing but the boys gave it our all and it's all I could have asked for," NBHS co-captain and gutsy lock Frank Lochore said.
While Love deserved the player-of-the-match award it could easily have gone to Palmy's blindside flanker and captain Tamati Ruawai. He was full of authority in the contact area and forced numerous turnovers.
Sheridan was powerful on the carry for NBHS. Kilmister shone with his option taking and organisation of the forwards.
All of the NBHS forwards deserve praise for the cohesion and patience they displayed. As Lochore said they can build on those patches of set piece dominance in the build-up to the next encounter between the two teams.
On one occasion the Napier forwards retained possession for 22 phases.
Palmerston North Boys' High School 27 (Ruben Love, Nasser Tato, Josh Ellingham, Darius Mafileo tries; Love 2 cons, pen), Napier Boys' High School 15 (Jack Sheridan, Angus Kilmister, Reece Henderson tries). HT: 17-5.