Wellington College first XV look to build late-season momentum

If this was the Wellington college rugby competition a few years ago, Wellington College would be feeling the pressure about now.

Three or four years ago you had to make the top-four to make the playoffs, but these days, much like in Super Rugby, the top-six make it through.

Wellington College sit in fifth position after their 38-27 traditional loss to St Pat’s Silverstream last Wednesday.

The team were in Christchurch yesterday for another traditional against Christchurch Boys’ High School, before fronting up to table-topping Scots College on Saturday.

Wellington College coach Lincoln Rawles said had it been a few years ago then he would be looking at this week’s fixtures in a different light. 

“It’s not ideal to have this traditional fixture and then playing Scots on the weekend, it’s tough but it would be worse if it was still a top four format for the playoffs.

“The reality of today’s competition, with the top six making quarterfinals, this week’s game isn’t the be all and end all.”

While they do not have to win the Scots game, Rawles said he hoped his young side would continue to show the improvement they had all season.

“We look to play well and win every game, but we’re a young team and I hope we will continue to improve as the season goes on.

“The crucial one now is really how we finish the season, we want to get some momentum up and ideally want to move up the ladder and get a home quarterfinal.”

They sit on 12 points, the same number as St Pat’s Town in fourth and three behind the third-placed Rongotai College.

Rawles said they had taken a lot out of the last two losses, to Stream and a 16-12 traditional defeat to St Pat’s Town.

“The loss at St Pat’s Town, at the end of the day, they scored just before fulltime to go ahead and we had a chance to go back down and win it but lost it at the end.

“Against Stream we couldn’t contain in the first half their strong centre, and we got back into our work in the second half, but by then we were too far behind.”

The form of Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Jimmy Hewitt and Sitiveni Paongo was pleasing, Rawles said.

“The same can be said for our big lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi, who’s only a year 11.

“He was starting lock as a year 10, so he’s now considered the old fella of the pack.”

Scots come into Saturday’s game undefeated and were rampant in a 51-3 win over Wairarapa College last weekend.

It was a week of bonus-point thrashings, as Town beat Tawa 81-8 and a Esikeli Komaisavai hat-trick helped Rongotai beat HIBS 74-9.

More blowouts could be on the cards when HIBS take on Stream, Tawa host Rongotai and Town travel to Wairarapa – although the former could be tighter than many expect with the rivalry between the two Upper Hutt colleges.

There appears to be a considerable gap between the bottom three of HIBS, Tawa and Wairarapa, and the traditionally strong top-five.

 – Stuff