2020 Boys 1stXV Rugby Preview
When St Patrick’s College, Silverstream was beaten 34-7 by Scots College in the seventh round of the Premiership last year it not only snapped Silverstream’s record-breaking run of 28 successive local victories but represented a seismic shift in the balance of power in the capital. Scots charged on to win the final against the reigning champions – Silverstream left to rue on missed opportunities.
Despite the mayhem triggered by Coronavirus, it’s unlikely the pecking order will change much. Following grading fixtures, a ten-team round-robin starts on July 25 concluding with a straight final on September 26. Last year’s top four automatically qualifies.
Scots are the favorites with a large contingent of their 2019 squad returning. The pack looks especially sturdy with prop Jonty Bird to anchor the scrum and provide impetus with the ball in hand. Dominic Ropeti and Maea Tema-Schmidt supply tall timber and athleticism in the second row and No.8 Sione Halalilo is a powerhouse. The backline will be guided by the mercurial Oryaan Kalolo while speed merchant Ayden Hammond ought to be marked closely. Scots will be coached by New Zealand Schools’ mentor Sam Rasch who replaced former Samoan international Earl Va’a in 2016.
Speed rather than brutality might be Silverstream’s recipe for success. Peter Laki is a promising prospect in the loose, and the backline has some real strength. Luke Walmsley, Rielly, Higgins, Tjay Clark, and Tony Solomona are versatile and exciting talents. Former Hurricanes prop Tim Mannix takes the reigns for a fifth season. Silverstream has been to the Premier I final nine times since 2009.
St Patrick’s College, Wellington underwhelmed in 2019, a talented and youthful side victim of inconsistency. Greater maturity could yield better fortunes. Prop Siale Lauaki is nicknamed ‘Hitman’ and has the skill to match his brawn. Much is expected of locks Rory Woods and Xavier Bell, but out wide is where Town boasts serious ammunition. Wellington Under 16 representative Ariki Wallace is an abundance of confidence with wings Herman Sumanufagai and Khya Wilson genuinely damaging. Galu Leitu, Kas Lealamanua and Greg Foe are an accomplished coaching trio with Lealamanua and Foe Manu Samoan internationals.
Rongotai College will look to their forwards to push into the top four again. Standouts Joyner Gaualofa and James Akerise return, joined by bruising
Hurricanes Under 18 lock Jabez Peniata from Porirua College. Christain Semu, Pose Tuilaepa, and Mezer Aleni-Rota are others worthy of interest. Rongotai hosted a semi-final last year and began its 2020 campaign shortly after NCEA exams with fitness training.
Unusually Wellington College will be forced to qualify for the Premiership. Recent success in the Under 15 grade suggests improvement is on the horizon. Half the pack returns with Bailee Larenson-Tupai to add punch from the side of the scrum. George Sims and Jakob Waikari-Jones are a familiar pairing in the halves with Angus Cooper secure at fullback. Unfortunately, Coronavirus put paid to Wellington’s tour of Argentina.
Since 2015 Wairarapa College has been a regular fixture in the Premiership. A group of 30 players has been training earnestly for months with the back group flourishing. Dru Molesi appears set for a big season in midfield.
Kapiti College has won nine Premiership games the past three seasons and will lean on hearty forwards to compete in the top flight. Hooker Christos Petratos will lead the charge and Jah Tarent is a combative force. Kapiti is coached by former Welsh lock Mike Voyle who played against the All Blacks in 1997 and started the first-ever Test at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 1999 when Wales beat South Africa for the first time.
Former Hutt Old Boys Marist mentor Kent Harris is one of the brighter young coaches in Wellington and will work hard to drive improvement at St Bernard’s College. Harris was down to coach Wellington B, but those plans have changed. The leadership of Jay Laban and Jono Little will be essential.
Aotea College holds the Beard trophy, an annual ‘Ranfurly Shield’ style competition for schools in the Tawa and Porirua basin. Matches played on a Wednesday night at Jerry Collins Stadium provide some of the most vibrant rugby in the region with 53 years of tradition honoured. This tourney kicks-off on July 29.
Meanwhile, Hastings Boys’ High School ensured the Moascar Cup returned to the Hurricanes region last September when they beat King’s College, Auckland 27-15 in the National Top Four final. Hastings’ defence of the ‘Ranfurly Shield’ of National Secondary Schools rugby starts on August 1 against fierce local rivals Napier Boys’ High School. Hastings won the National Under 15 Invitational tourney last year beating Hamilton Boys’ High School in the final.
-Story courtesy of College Sport Media