Otago Boys' High School (OBHS) won their third straight Otago secondary schools title after defeating King's High School 33-19 in the final of the First XV rugby competition yesterday.
It was the third time the teams met in 2020, after King's broke a 13 year drought against OBHS in round one and OBHS won in round two.
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A powerful first half showing propelled OBHS to the win as they scored 27 unanswered points in the first 30 minutes.
OBHS coach Regan Turoa said it was the best 30 minutes of rugby he's seen his side play.
"It's pretty special and I've had these boys for three years and really good they could sign off in that style and do it for the school," said Turoa. "It's a proud school and the call was to be ruthless out there and wear the jersey with pride for the school and they did that, so I'm very happy."
OBHS opened the scoring off a King's mistake inside their own half, before Otago Boys' first-five Cameron Millar latched on to a cut out pass to race over untouched and score under the posts. Millar converted his own try to give OBHS an early 7-0 lead after 10 minutes.
OBHS continued to build pressure on attack and repelled any King's raids, before they were rewarded with a second try soon after when fullback Finn Hurley cut in and sliced through the defence to crash over. Millar converted and then added a second penalty of the half as OBHS extended their lead to 20-0 after 20 minutes of play.
King's struggled to get into the game and were guilty of chancing their arm too much as they tried to find a way back. Their task was made even more difficult when Otago Boys' collected a third try of the game when Oliver Haig went over in the corner to score a beautifully orchestrated five-pointer and with the conversion OBHS suddenly had a 27-0 lead with one minute left in the first half.
Appearing to be out muscled out of the contest, King's finally sprung to life, as a quick throw in from inside their half sparked a break that led to halfback Taine Hand crawling over to score before halftime.
King's carried the momentum in the second spell and made a fast start when Hand linked up well with centre Bradley McPate who dove over to score and show that King's weren't going to just roll over in the biggest game of the year.
Kings scored their third straight try when rampaging number eight Joji Buli stormed over near the posts for a converted try to make it 30-19 with just over 15 minutes to play and King's still in with a faint sniff of snatching a famous win.
In the end though, the clock and scoreboard became the enemy for King's as they desperately tried to conjure up attacking plays from all over the park, but OBHS' defence remained stoic and they eventually were awarded a penalty with one minute on the clock.
Millar stepped up and slotted the kick from 40 metres out to cap of a classy individual performance where he kicked seven from eight and notched up a personal haul of 23 points for the match.
With time up on the clock, Otago Boys' were awarded a scrum and without mucking around, the ball was booted into touch as OBHS defended their crown and continued their long standing dominance of the Southern competition.
"It was always going to be a battle at the breakdown, so we did a lot of work around there and playing territory, so forcing them into those corners and not playing too much in our own half, we've been guilty of that a little bit," said Turoa. "It was nice to take the pressure off the forwards and put the pressure on them at the breakdown and it worked, then we got some really good turnovers, a couple of penalties and got our hands on the pill and played to our edges. It's one thing to have a game plan, but it's another thing to execute it and the boys just held their composure and did the job. It was lovely to watch."
King's co-coach Ryan Bambry admits the first-half onslaught from OBHS really hurt his side.
"They jumped out to that considerable lead early doors and that was on the back of our fundamental mistakes which were pretty disappointing," said Bambry. "Because of that we knew we'd really beaten ourselves in the first half, so the half-time messages were really positive and we just needed to get the ball and hang onto it and move them about. While we did do that in the second half, we still made a couple of mistakes and let them get away with it really."
While OBHS struggled at times during scrum time, Turoa says he always had faith in his senior players rallying the troops to ensure they regained control of the contest.
"It was about getting our hands on the ball and playing to our structures again and not playing too much in our own half. We sort of got a bit carried away there, but that's secondary school footy where the boys just want to play and as a coach you want them to keep banging those corners, but once they returned to their structures it was a matter of just getting hands on ball and a couple of good penalties and that was pretty much it."
Turoa was full of praise for his first-five.
"He was playing second-five at the start of the year and with a couple of changes we moved him to first-five and he's been a revelation and grown with every game, it's a shame we've got to stop now because as a team we're really starting to play some good footy and he's been a major part of that. He can kick them from the side-line; he's got a great boot and can kick it nicely out of the hand as well."
OBHS number eight Semisi Taeiloa was a handful for King's on both attack and defence and had a standout performance, with barnstorming runs, big tackles and a constant breakdown presence to cap off a memorable season. Turoa says while Taeiloa already has a lot of ticker, he's only going to get better.
"He loves the hoops, he loves the jersey. He's in his second year in the team and only 16 years old. He's got a huge potential in the game and is probably one of the freakiest rugby players I've ever had to coach, he's unreal."
For King's there are still a lot of positives to take away from the campaign. Having beaten OBHS earlier in the season and toppled Southland Boys' High School to make the final, Bambry believes more success will come if the current high standards are maintained.
"When we took over about four years ago the standards of the team with everything they did in and around school wasn't really a reflection of our school and that's why they were a pretty poor team. If you take away rugby from everything, it's all our standards around school that's ultimately got us to where we are at the moment and it's spilling out onto the rugby field, which long may that continue."
OTAGO PREMIER SCHOOLS
Top 4 final
Otago Boys 33 v Kings High 19
Middle 4 final
John McGlashan 18 v St Kevin's 12
Bottom 4 final
Wakatipu 29 v South Otago 26
CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND (CNI)
St Peter's Cambridge 36 v St Paul's Collegiate 36
3rd v 4th
Whanganui Collegiate 29 v Feilding High School 25
Other play off games
Lindisfarne 29 v St John's Hamilton 25
Rathkeale 14 v St John's Hastings 20
Gisborne 18 v New Plymouth 17
Palmerston North 10 v Tauranga 8
Rotorua 24 v Hastings 14 (Moascar Cup)
Hamilton Boys 43 v Napier 7
Wellington College 39 v Wairarapa College 36
St Bernard's 19 v Rongotai College 23
Mana College 5 v St Pat's Town 56
Tawa 19 v Aotea College 28
St Pat's Silverstream 7 v Scots College 5
Nelson 26 v Timaru Boys 30 (played last Tuesday)
Marlborough Boys 60 v Mid Canterbury Combined 7
Nelson College 38 v St Andrew's 24
St Bede's 31 v Timaru 24
Roncalli 0 v Christchurch Boys 38
St Thomas 24 v Waimea Combined 27
Shirley Boys 10 v Christ's College 15
Rangiora High 70 v Lincoln Combined 7