Aotea College capture Co-ed Cup and Beard Trophy
Ropati So’oalo was one of two Premier two Wellington players selected in the Hurricanes U18 camp this year, along with Hugo Plummer from Onslow College, and in September 2017 So’oalo was named Player of the Tournament at the Hurricanes U16 tournament in Wanganui.
On Wednesday night at Jerry Collins Stadium, So’oalo (a centre or wing) showed his considerable quality by scoring two tries in a 23-15 win by Aotea College over Porirua College in the College Sport Wellington Co-ed Cup final.
The match, which also doubled as a Beard Trophy fixture, was delicately poised with 20 minutes remaining. Porirua led 15-11 when Aotea had a scrum 40 metres out. So’oalo received the ball on the right side and sharply accelerated to the left touchline beating at least three defenders before diving into the corner. The solo effort propelled Aotea into a lead they never lost.
Thereafter Porirua battled to gain meaningful territory and with five minutes left Aotea halfback Jake Tibbits dummied at the Porirua 22 and dashed clear for the winning try under the posts. It was an even and willing contest which featured five lead changes. Second-five Mati Matofai kicked a penalty to open the Aotea account, but the Porirua forwards soon gained the ascendancy and industrious lock Jabez Peniata battled over to make it 5-3.
So’oalo provided a less dramatic prelude to his later try when he scored Aotea’s first from a five- meter scrum, slipping past two weak tackles.
Both sides traded penalties as Aotea led 11-8, but Porirua would lead 15-11 at halftime. Openside Logan Ariu-Woolley busted into the Aotea 22 and quick recycling would lead to an overlap.
The individual brilliance of So’oalo combined with committed Aotea defence which caused a high Porirua error rate was the telling difference in an entertaining spectacle.
Porirua surrenders the Beard Trophy, a 50-year-old prize which works like the Ranfurly Shield of Porirua schools rugby.
Aotea are Wellington Co-ed champions for the second time and for the first time since 2012.
Aotea will play Feilding High School in the Hurricanes Co-ed semi-finals in Palmerston North on 25 August.
So’oalo has scored more tries (14) than any other player in Wellington high school rugby this season. That haul includes six in one game.