1st XV vs Waitakere College at SPL No.1
The first true home game of the season saw St Paul’s College play a tough encounter against Waitakere College on Saturday. The match was originally listed as a home match for Waitakere, however, connections with their Headmaster (and SPL Old Boy) Mark Shannahan saw the match transferred to the St Paul’s No.1, to allow the school to commemorate its Old Boys Day.
The festivities started in the school gym with the Sponsors' Match Jersey and Shorts presentation and it was great to see some familiar faces, plus stalwarts of the college with their mokos, coming back to support in numbers. The timing of course, was not ideal for the team’s pre-match preparations, as it meant a reduced warmup. But it had been a week full of disruptions and the coaches were interested to see how the boys would handle this situation mentally.
Two fierce pre-match “Hakas" set the scene as the SPL 1st XV stepped out looking resplendent in their “new” traditional white shorts. Waitakere College started well and had good go forward through their strong, taller pack with their No.4 providing plenty of quality ball off line-outs, whilst disrupting ours throughout the first half. At set piece our lads struggled, with pressure on their scrum, slow clearances and not aided by some players wearing moulded soles, instead of metal studs for the soft conditions. The backs, with Sefanaia Cowley-Lupo providing good positional cover at fullback, showed counter-attacking flair, linking with right wing Trent Takimoana Moleu. With more awareness and better draw pass execution, our backs should have caused more problems for Waitakere.
It took nearly 30 minutes to break the “deadlock” through a sustained forward assault, five metres from Waitakere’s posts. A quick shift through the hands to the left wing, saw Jessiah Tanoa'i dive in the corner for a well-deserved 5 pointer. Five minutes later, halfback and captain Angelo Taufa, cleared awkward messy ball from a scrum 22m out from the try line. Another smart shift left to Vaka Sikahele saw him steam onto the ball and, with an outside step, beat two feeble defenders easily to score 10m in from the left-hand touch.
Tony Samuela, our backline general, had his reliable radar switched off for both conversion kicks, and although he kicked away some decent possession at times, mostly managed to find space with exit kicks, nailing some good touch finders as well as passing superbly. Leading 10-nil at halftime, changes were made and the impact off the bench was very good. Johannes Smith, Troy Tofilau and Mark Tautele bolstering the front row. Plus our locks Tama and Sio started finding better form as the match progressed.
Willy Piliu took over at fullback and gave a good account of himself linking well with his wingers and centres throughout the half. One of Willy’s runs saw hardworking 2nd Five Taani Fangupo, make a bust upfield after some good interplay, but with one defender to beat and a try in the offing, his rocket-like wide pass to Jessiah sadly missed its target.
Later, during another counterattack just outside our red zone, the ball was shifted wide to Zion Mann on the right wing, who slipped a neat pass under pressure, to Taani wrapping on his outside. Another big 50m bust down the right edge, only needed a chip-kick ahead or an accurate in-field pass to his supports, but good defence stopped the attack.
But the signs were looking ominous.
The first points of the second half came at the 55th minute mark, from a close-range penalty shot by Angelo near the left upright. With the score at 13-0 and 15 minutes to play, our Captain got a well-deserved rest, which allowed youngster Puna Vehikite to continue his impressive rise at this level. The forwards showed greater cohesion with big charges from forwards Armani Fa'apoi, Heneli Luani, and our powerful centres.
Eventually, the sustained pressure and a series of close-range penalties, saw the ball moved right for openside Jeremiah Margraff to slip through to score for an 18-0 lead. Tony nailed the conversion to make it 20-0….(the video shows Tony kicks the goal. However, it appears the ref did not award it 18-0.)
From the restart, slick hands along the backline to right-winger Zion, saw him unleash a super downfield punt, followed by an even better chase. The big Waitakere winger did well to collect the ball but was forced back in-goal by three SPL tacklers, earning our boys a five-metre scrum. From the scrum, a set move resulted in Taani charging through some brittle defence, to score right by the posts. His attempted conversion was unfortunately wide of the mark. 25-0…or officially 23-0.
The final whistle came moments later, capping a mixed but satisfactory performance with a well-earned victory, yet one thoroughly enjoyed by the Old Boys and supporters. The result also left the team under no illusions, that there are plenty of work-ons for this week’s training.
Man of the Match - Vaka Sikahele
Best Forward - Sio Tuima
Best Back - Taani Fangupo
The Old Boys were treated to a few drinks in the Staff Room, whilst Waitakere College were honoured with TWO pigs (!!) and an incredible aftermatch feast.
The coaching staff, team and management wish to thank all who came and supported.
Much love and thanks go to the boys’ parents and families for providing the meal, Old Boys jersey sponsors, Shorts sponsors - the Fruean Family and Stan Talon for screen printing and Flags.
We look forward to seeing you all again this weekend vs Pakuranga College.
Confortare Esto Vir
Words Glenn Anderson, Backs Coach
Photos Siu Puletiuatoa, Head Coach & Forwards Coach
This article was originally posted on: August, 11th 2020