One thing we learned from Rotorua Boys' High School's first XV match-up with Wesley College is when they get on the front foot this season they will be hard to stop.
The pre-season friendly, played at Rotorua Boys' High School yesterday, was a valuable opportunity for coaches to learn more about their 2019 sides.
As is often the case, Rotorua Boys' High School have a penchant for free-flowing, attacking rugby and they showed glimpses of how devastating that can be on their way to a 31-7 win. However, Wesley College came with a plan and for long periods were able to slow down the game and stifle the home side's attack.
Rotorua Boys' co-director of rugby Ngarimu Simpkins said beating any Wesley College side by that much was "no easy feat".
"It's a good score for us. I think we had moments, we scored when we really needed to in the critical moments of each half. But the game was so stop-start and we'll take some learnings out of that, just around our game management."
In the first half, Rotorua Boys' looked like they would score every time they got the ball in opposition territory. Ten minutes in they worked a near-perfect set play from a scrum inside the Wesley 22m which resulted in winger Carlos Karaitiana diving over in the corner.
Minutes later they had their second when hard-running lock Stuart Leach broke a couple of tackles and steamrolled his way over the line. He scored a second try late in the first half and Rotorua Boys' led 17-0 at halftime.
Early in the second half Rotorua Boys' scored the try of the match. Fullback Ceiza James made a break out of his own 22m, showing electric speed and slipping out of multiple tackles before offloading to winger Manu Akauola who scored under the posts. James converted the try and the home side had a commanding 24-0 lead.
The last 30 minutes of the game was more of an arm wrestle as Wesley College slowed things down and enjoyed more of the possession. The two sides exchanged tries and Rotorua Boys' ran out comfortable winners.
Simpkins said there were some work-ons but he was pleased with the way his side stood up against "big, physical Wesley forward pack".
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"I thought our scrum in particular was really strong today, we gave away a few penalties but I thought we had dominance there and that sort led the way and gave our backs some much needed space at times.
"Ceiza James is looking super sharp at fullback, I thought he was really good, and our front row too, they did all the dirty work well. Those are my standouts."
The key words for the Rotorua side at training in the next few weeks will be "game management".
"When the game is stop-start, we need to get ourselves into better momentum so that we can speed the game up. Traditionally, we like to play a fast game and Wesley slowed it down really well.
"It's just some key people at nine and 10 really dictating, speeding up the game through taps and through our lineout. We'll work on that as a team, those are just little details we can work on with the boys.
"We've got glimpses of brilliance out there and when we polish this I think we're going to be a bit of a force."
Baywide Secondary School Rugby Results
Rotorua Boys' High School first XV 31 Wesley College first XV 7
Baywide First XV Division One:
Rotorua Boys' Barbarians 8 Rotorua Boys' High School II 57, Western Heights High School 7 Tauranga Boys' College II 40, Tauhara College 10 John Paul College 10, Trident High School 41 Aquinas College 0.
Baywide First XV Division Two:
Ōtūmoetai College 29 Taupō Nui a Tia College 20, Tauranga Boys' College III vs Te Puke High School (score not received), Pāpāmoa College 22 Katikati College 26, Ōpōtiki College vs Te Wharekura o Mauao (score not received).
Baywide 1st XV Division Three:
Tauranga Boys' Blue vs Trident II (score not received), Mount Maunganui College 73 Bethlehem College 7, Rotorua Boys' High School IIII 17 Tongariro School 26.