By JENNI RUTHERFORD
It wasn't the sun or the beaches that the New Zealand schools rugby team missed the most while they were touring Europe last month - it was the cricket.
The team had to get news of the Black Caps' stunning early results in Australia any way they could.
Rotorua Boys High School seventh former Liam Messam recalls that while on the road between games, he had to ask air hostesses for any titbits of news on how the New Zealand cricket team were doing in the tri-series.
The schedule was demanding with the schoolboys being called on to play eight matches in less than a month in France, England, Scotland and Wales.
Seven of those games were played in 21 days, a rapid turn-around for the young footballers to cope with.
"The travel was hard," said Messam, a No 8.
"The [opposition] changes when they play New Zealand - they want to win even more."
Despite the schedule, there was some time for sight-seeing.
Messam and the team visited the "touristy places" such as the Eiffel Tower, the Edinburgh Castle and Buckingham Palace.
But the biggest buzz for the 17-year-old was playing at Twickenham.
The side suffered just one loss, against the French under-19 team.
Coach Gerry Davidson was pleased with the results overall, especially since the New Zealanders discovered that some of the teams they were scheduled to play had changed from regional selection sides to national under-19 teams.
"Every game was like an international test match," said Davidson.
"On our itinerary we were supposed to be playing a Southern England selection side first but it turned out to be the England under-19 team."
In fact, four of the eight sides were national under-19 teams. Originally, the New Zealanders, had expected three.
To be eligible for the New Zealand Schools team, players had to be 18 or under on May 1 last year.
The French seemed to see their 16-12 victory as revenge for their loss to their New Zealand counterparts at the under-19 World Cup final last year.
"We tried to tell them we were not the same team," said Davidson.
"But they didn't seem to understand."
Beating the England Schools at Twickenham in the tour finale was the highlight for the side.
The last-minute penalty try that gave New Zealand a 29-22 victory meant the Kiwis had won their last two encounters at home and abroad.
The sides also met at Carisbrook in the curtain-raiser to last year's Bledisloe Cup match.
This week, it was back to school for only a few of the 27-strong squad. The bulk of the side finished last year.
For Messam, it was a short break before he was straight back to the classroom when he got home last Saturday.
However, he plans to head for the beach this weekend, no doubt with a radio beside him as he catches up on the tri-series cricket, and summer.
Otamatea High School take a giant step into the unknown when they come up against Northland secondary school cricket stalwarts Whangarei Boys High in the first round of the Robertson Shield on Sunday.
Otamatea, who were promoted to the top tier of the two-day competition, have a tough task against a Whangarei first XI used to winning.
The defending champions also compete in the senior men's tournament on Saturdays, and are sitting third on the table.
Life for captain and opening batsman Michael Pinny has is a lot busier now the school year has started. He already plays in the Northland senior men's team and leads under-19 Northern Districts.
Kamo High School take on Mahurangi College in the other match.
Whangarei Boys High's second XI, defending champions in the North Power Cup one-day competition, take on Pompallier College tomorrow.
This week. -
Northland: cricket one-day competition.
Northland: Robertson Shield two-day cricket competition.
* * *
ASB BANK RESULTS
Auckland, first round of RH Marryatt Cup and Gillette Cup (zone 2).-
Liston 114 (R. Allport 3-31) bt St Kentigern 110 (P. Whynn 3-18).
Avondale 184 bt Papatoetoe 160.
King's 302-8 (K. Frauenstein 90, M. Isbey 62) bt Mt Roskill 66 (S. Mackay 4-10, E. Levi 4-10)
Westlake 188-6 bt MAGS 185.
Sacred Heart 223/9 (S. Thomson 64, J. Withasinge 42) bt Takapuna 124 (J. Moran 4/18, A. Moran 4/31).
Kelston 343 (C. Shieb 68, J. Matthews 64, W. de Ruyter 49) bt Dilworth 54 (J. Matthews 6/21).
Macleans 161-7 (D. Oatridge 55no, M. Yeoman 42) bt Rangitoto 127 (M. Carroll 4/14).
AGS 260-5 (D. Winger 59, R. Sharma 47) bt Rosmini 116 (M. Ward 4/32).
National Collegiate Bowl.-
Semifinal: Papatoetoe HS 36 bt Massey HS 28.
Kelston bt Mt Roskill Grammar 15-25, 20-25, James Cook bt Mt Roskill 12-25, 17-25, James Cook bt Kelston 27-25, 13-25, 6-15.
By JENNI RUTHERFORD