For decades Rotorua Boys' High School and Tauranga Boys' College have been going toe to toe on the rugby field. Today, they opened their 2019 Super 8 Rugby Championship campaigns against each other in their 101st match-up. Tauranga hadn't won the match since 2013 and were looking to end a 10-game losing streak against their Bay of Plenty rivals. Rotorua Boys' were hoping to start the season with a bang in front of their home fans and in their first televised game for the year. Sports reporter David Beck was there.
In recent years the signature of the Rotorua Boys' High School first XV has been their ability to attack from anywhere on the field.
They showed that will indeed be a strength again this year as they started and finished strongly in a 29-13 bonus point win over Bay of Plenty rivals Tauranga Boys' College today, their first match of the 2019 Super 8 First XV Championship.
On paper it was a performance which ticked all the boxes for Rotorua Boys'; a bonus-point victory and their 11th in a row against Tauranga Boys'. However, coach Ngarimu Simpkins said his side had some work-ons.
"We're happy to get the bonus-point win but I actually thought we were a little bit rusty. It showed we haven't played for a number of weeks.
"I think the bones are there, it was just nice for us to get out on the paddock. I actually thought Tauranga Boys' were a very good side and it was a good game."
Tauranga Boys' took an early 3-0 lead in the match, as they kicked a penalty from right in front and 20m out, before Rotorua Boys' got into their groove.
The home side put together multiple phases inside the Tauranga 22m and 10 minutes into the game it was captain and hooker Bernie Hati who made the breakthrough on the back of a powerful maul.
After 20 minutes, Rotorua Boys' scored the try of the match. Showing a willingness to shift the ball wide from deep inside their own half, they put winger Manu Akauola into space on the right and he took off. He found fullback Ceiza James on the inside who drew the final defender and set flanker Stuart Leach free. Leach galloped away to score under the posts and send the home crowd wild.
Rotorua Boys' kept up the pressure and added a try to No 8 Tukimihia Simpkins to lead 17-3 at the break.
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Rotorua Boys' started the second half strongly and Hati completed a try-scoring double, again crashing over on the back of a maul, to make it 22-3.
However, Tauranga Boys' kept up the fight and were able to kill much of the home side's momentum. They produced a couple of tries to reduce the lead to 22-13 before Rotorua Boys' halfback Kane O'Connor waltzed through to score under the posts right on fulltime and make it 29-13.
Simpkins said his side struggled to build on their early momentum.
"I thought we started really well and finished quite well but in that middle patch it was really stop-start. Maybe we didn't need to be so flashy in some of our moves, we just need to try to get a little bit of dominance over the ball and get ourselves in the game rather than be too expansive.
"It's just something we have to manage because we have got some talent out wide. We just have to manage that rather than rein it in. We have to find a good balance.
"It was a great occasion, we were pretty humbled to have the whole school here. It was a good atmosphere."
It's not a long season so we have to turn around and get stuck in, there's no easy games in Super 8.
Tauranga Boys' coach Dan Goodwin said it was a "tough battle".
"They're a very well-coached side and they played some really good rugby, really structured. We were lucky in places to hold them out in the first half and yet they still scored a couple which put some real pressure on.
"I'm really proud of the way the boys came back and got stuck in. It's not a long season so we have to turn around and get stuck in. There's no easy games in Super 8 and we'll look forward to Monday, getting back together and getting back into the work before next weekend against New Plymouth."
In the other Super 8 games played so far, Palmerston North Boys' High School beat Gisborne Boys' High School 32-25 and defending champions Hamilton Boys' High School beat New Plymouth Boys' High School 52-7.