Want to know who the next Beauden Barrett or Kieran Read will be? In his new weekly column for the Herald, schoolboy rugby expert Herschel Fruean singles out the best First XV matches of the weekend, and some rising stars to watch. Fruean will travel New Zealand looking for the best talent the country has to offer, preview the big games every Friday, provide a wrap of all the results on Sunday, and rank the top 15 First XV teams (based on their performances throughout the season) every Monday morning.
For many 1st XV teams across the country, this weekend defined their season – and it showed.
With St Kentigern College missing a host of players for their match against Sacred Heart College, they were expected to go into the game with the underdog tag. However, their high tempo start put Sacred Heart on the back foot every time a ball runner got to work.
St Kents were very controlled in the forwards and made sure everything they did was executed as well as could be.
St Kents defended well, tackled in bunches, drove runners back and put pressure on at the breakdown. Openside flanker Cam Church was his usual busy self, making tackles, securing turnovers and was a surprising factor in the lineout. His work was rewarded with a try as well. Will Bason also played an important role for St Kents and made sure the defence was solid. St Kents prop Tiaan Tauakipulu and locks Ben Ake and Lopeti Faifua found a lot of success in and around the breakdowns and got into their work.
There was little room for mistakes for St Kents on defence because Sacred Heart halfback Sean Weir had the forwards rolling up the field when they had the ball. Prop Peter Neli took some massive hit ups and got his team breaking through weak tackles.
Loose forwards Corey Kellow and Sione Kau Lokeni had the rest of the Sacred Heart forwards staying in rhythm going up the field. Sacred Heart didn't do anything flash but chose good angles to run and also kept the ball safe.
Sacred Heart went ahead with an early penalty, but some good play from St Kents saw them run out to a 17-3 halftime lead.
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Sacred Heart started to drop off in the second half while St Kents still tried to play every opportunity to eventually come out on top with a 29-15 win. They'll face King's College, who toppled Auckland Grammar School 22-12, in the 1A final next week.
In the Chiefs region, Rotorua Boys' High School and Tauranga Boys' College played in the Bay of Plenty finals for the chance to represent the Chiefs Region at the top four nationals competition. Tauranga got out to a hot start and were having their way with the Rotorua side to lead by more than two tries. Rotorua made a comeback to go ahead late in the piece, but a penalty on full time saw the match end in a draw. The win went to Tauranga because they scored the first try, and they'll go on to meet the winner of St Paul's Collegiate and Hamilton Boys' High School who play on Monday afternoon.
Palmerston North Boys' High School also got in the win column, with a 16-12 victory over Napier Boys' High School. They'll play the winner of Scots College and St Patrick's College Silverstream.
Nelson College will meet Christchurch Boys' High School in the final of the UC Championship after beating Christ's College 16-10. Christchurch Boys' beat St Bede's College 42-32.