Auckland’s St Peter’s College has won the national Top Four 1st XV rugby title after a 31-28 victory over Napier Boys’ High School in the final in Palmerston North. The win on September 9 also saw St Peter’s take the Moascar Cup off Napier — the cup being the equivalent of the Ranfurly Shield for secondary schools rugby. The St Peter’s success in 2018 was dedicated to rugby “alumni” Jamie Brown, Dylan Mika, Basil Aholelei and Peter Watt who passed away this year.
The win capped a remarkable run by St Peter’s which won their last five games by a combined margin of eight points. (22-21 over St Kentigern College in the Auckland
semi-final; 29-28 over King’s College in the Auckland final; 19-17 over Westlake Boys High School in the Blues region playoff; 8-7 over Hamilton Boys’ High School in the top foursemi-final; and 31-28 over Napier Boys High in the final).
The final didn’t start well for St Peter’s with Napier jumping out to a 21-0 lead. A try to centre Apetone Vaka narrowed the gap to 21-5 just before the halftime break. Tries in the second half to wing P.J. Tonga, flanker Chris Halaufia, number eight and captain Niko Jones and prop Zyon Holo saw St Peter’s out to a 31-21 lead, in what was a remarkable turnaround. Napier narrowed the gap to three points with a converted try but St Peter’s played out the rest of the game in opposition territory and gained the win.
The last time St Peter’s held the national top four title and Moascar Cup was in 2000. The college also won the national title in 1987.
Headmaster James Bentley told NZ Catholic that “the St Peter’s community is exceptionally proud of the achievements of our 2018 1st XV”.
“The last month or so has been an incredible ride as the team time and again have come through on the right side of the scoreboard,” Mr Bentley said.
“Niko Jones has been inspirational in his leadership and our coaching team of Walter Alvarez, Matt Skeen and Brett Kingstone have cultivated a wonderful culture amongst the team.” Mr Bentley also pointed out that the team’s coaches are not professional coaches as some schools have, but are in fact staff members, with Mr Alvarez the school’s ICT manager, Mr Skeen the assistant headmaster and Mr Kingstone the Year 10 dean.
The weekend of August 18/19 was a landmark one for Catholic secondary school rugby in New Zealand with Catholic colleges taking out the Auckland and Wellington 1st XV premiership finals.
In Auckland, St Peter’s College defeated Kings College 29-28 in a thriller at Eden Park. This was the first time in 18 years that St Peter’s had won the title.
And in Wellington, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, beat their Catholic cousins St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie, 29-22, with this being the fifth time the Silversteam side has taken out the premiership.
St Peter’s had finished fourth in the Auckland premiership table, but pipped first placed and unbeaten St Kentigern College 22-21 in one semi-final. Kings reached the final after defeating Sacred Heart College 29-22 in the other semi-final.
And St Patrick’s Silverstream had beaten their town cousins a month earlier
At Eden Park, in what was the “curtain-raiser” to the Auckland vs Counties Mitre 10 Cup clash, St Peter’s started strongly against Kings, going out to a 17-3 lead, which Kings pegged back to 17-13 at halftime.
All in all, St Peter’s scored five tries and two conversions for their 29 points, but perhaps the most vital score was a sideline conversion of the final try by 15-year-old Ajay Faleafaga.
But Kings could have won the game at the death — with an unchallenged player
knocking the ball on with the tryline open. St Peter’s cleared from the resulting
scrum and that was the end of the game and the start of the celebrations.
St Peter’s captain Niko Jones, son of former All Black Sir Michael Jones, mentioned
to a TV interviewer after the game how much God had helped the St Peter’s
team, which had knelt in prayer and song after the final whistle to thank God.
The St Peter’s supporters were out in force at Eden Park and were loud and vociferous, being the so-called “23rd man” to help the squad of 22 players.
St Patrick’s, Silversteam, with their victory, reportedly became the first Wellington
college to successfully defend their 1st XV title since 2009.
The standout in the game played at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua was Silverstream lock Neyla Masima, who scored three tries. But the decisive try, which pushed Silverstream out to a lead which proved insurmountable, came from head prefect Iona Apineru.
Stirring hakas from both teams and their supporters followed the game.
St Peter’s was scheduled to play in the final of the Blues regional playoff against
Westlake Boys High School to find one of the teams to contest the national top
St Patrick’s, Silverstream lost to Hastings Boys’ High School in a semi-final of the Hurricanes regional playoffs. St Patrick’s, Kilbirnie lost to Napier Boys’ High School in the other playoff semi-final.
In Christchurch, St Bede’s College went down 24-23 to Christ’s College in
And in Wellington, St Mary’s College won their third consecutive Wellington
Schoolgirls title on August 15 by defeating Porirua College 44-15.