In his weekly wrap, Bruce Holloway looks at all the big talking points across the Auckland schoolboy rugby competition.
There is a joy and passion in Auckland first XV schoolboy rugby that you don't find at other levels of the game.
Take Saturday's clash between Auckland Grammar and Sacred Heart, which unfolded as an infectious cauldron of noise, colour and effervescence thanks to hundreds of highly engaged fans.
Watching rugby as a member of a large excited group and sharing its enthusiasm can be spiritually exhilarating.
Hosts Auckland Grammar had their platoon of hardcore student fans rallying behind a flag and mascot on the pavilion side of the Grammar pitch.
And then, minutes before kick-off, from nowhere a large exuberant, chaotic, yet somehow organised mass of schoolboy Sacred Heart fans surged across the Grammar No 2 pitch like a Civil War infantry charge to welcome their team onto the field of play.
Instead of the usual stoic, phlegmatic, matter-of-fact watchers you might find at club level, here was a vibrant jamboree atmosphere as fans traded cheers, chants and songs.
These young fans motivated and lifted the schoolboy players by getting in behind them, as opposed to so much club stuff where it's up to the team to motivate the fans.
And who wouldn't play well with such fervent support? At its best, any level of football is better in front of partisan fans with a sense of shared purpose. Against this backdrop, Sacred Heart powered to an epic 46-22 win.
"Both schools are right into their rugby," noted Sacred Heart coach Mark Selwyn. "And it did make a difference, particularly in such a roller-coaster match.
"The boys enjoyed that – you could see it in their eyes. All week the players rub shoulders with their peers and having the respect of your peers becomes great motivation."
Within the opening 12 minutes, Sacred Heart had scored twice and Grammar once.
Just before halftime, leading 19-8, Sacred Heart had their hooker sent off for a no-arms tackle, so they had to battle through with 14 for the rest of the game.
Hero for Sacred Heart was first five Rico Selwyn – he will have been popular at school this week - who scored a try under the posts and kicked superbly in plugging the right corner, controlling the clock and picking up two 50-22s in the process. Outside him, Sacred Heart's midfield regularly got the team on the front foot.
Blindside flanker Alvin Chong-Nee was the pick of the forwards, getting through a power of work.
Selwyn said Sacred Heart won't be changing anything for their match with Liston College on Saturday.
"It's a game we should win on current form, but we respect all opposition and will prepare for it like we always do."
Meanwhile, if there is one respect in which the symbiotic relationship between schoolboy players and fans falls down, it is on the media-promotional side.
Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O'Connor has advised his school prefers to focus on all sports the school offers, rather than first XV rugby. But this looks to be seriously out of step with the sideline reality at Grammar this season.
Dilworth's strong start
Dilworth are a point clear at the top of the table after their 66-10 win over Liston College, which coach Gareth Pickering called "an encouraging start".
"All players from 1 to 22 have been contributing towards our performances in the first two rounds of competition," he said.
"As a small school, the sum of our parts is greater than any individual, and we now look forward to the challenge presented by Auckland Grammar this week.
"Everyone acknowledges the challenges we face against much larger schools, but we have been progressing well at this early stage of the season, and are excited about improving on last week's performance."
Geoff Moon Memorial Cup
The Geoff Moon Memorial Cup will be at stake when Mt Albert Grammar face Aorere College on Saturday. The trophy was introduced in 2019 in honour of Moon, who was an important rugby figure for both schools.
Moon coached Mt Albert Grammar when they won the National First XV Rugby Championship in 2016 and was also former student and teacher at Aorere College.
"Geoff was an outstanding rugby person who had an impact on so many players so it is a very special trophy for both schools," Mt Albert Grammar coach Tony Hanks said.
Mt Albert Grammar edged out St Kentigern 18-17 to sit second on the table.
Hanks said his team had been fortunate to hold on in a game either team could have won.
"We had a bug go through the team midweek and didn't train until Thursday so I was pleased with the resilience we showed because St Kentigern are a good side."
For Mt Albert, Roy Tatupu and Denzel Hurt-Pickering scored tries. Hurt-Pickering, a Warriors U-18 league player, was having his first start at this level, playing at first-five.
Rob Ah Chong was named Mags' forward of the day and Juelz Baker the best back.
De La Salle and King's College drew 20-20 in a thriller. Kings were firing from the start and surged to a 17-5 lead, while De La Salle were making lots of mistakes.
But two second-half tries to De La Salle centre Gabriel Shepherd gave them a 20-17 lead with five minutes to go. Kings missed a penalty, but with three minutes left a further penalty allowed them to equalise.
Best for De La Salle was Peni Otunoko, who was shifted from first to second five-eighths in a tactical ploy.
Despite not holding on for a win, de La Salle coach Bond Tagaloa was satisfied.
"It's been a while since we beat King's," he said. "The way the boys played, I couldn't be happier."
De La Salle now face 2021 champions Kelston at home.
St Peter's scramble
St Peter's notched another good result in beating Kelston 20-3 at The Cage.
Coach Dave Thomas suggested that scoreline didn't quite reflect what a tough haul it had been against quality opposition, given his team scored with the late play of the day.
He was particularly pleased with his team's often scrambling defence in restricting Kelston to one penalty.
Saint's two tries came from loosehead prop Sika Pole and halfback Etu Fokufuka, while flanker Dylan Petaia was player of the day.
"We have a lot of sore bodies this week, and it won't get any easier in facing King's College next up," Thomas said.
Returning No 8 inspires Tangaroa College
Tangaroa College No 8 Amazing Manase – back from six months off with shoulder reconstruction – was player of the day as his team beat Aorere College 24-12 in a gruelling physical encounter.
Tangaroa first five-eights Mikaele Taavao was also a major influence in controlling the game with his kicking and scoring two tries. Helu Naniseni also dotted down for a much-improved Tangaroa team.
Saturday draw (home team first, all 2.30pm): St Kentigern v Tangaroa; De La Salle v Kelston; Liston v Sacred Heart; Aorere v Mt Albert Grammar; St Peter's v King's College; Auckland Grammar v Dilworth.