MAGS win first XV national title
Mt Albert Grammar are the national first XV rugby champions after a gritty 14-13 win over Hastings Boys’ High School in the final.
It was a wet Massey University Rugby Institute in Palmerston North which greeted the teams last Sunday afternoon.
The conditions led to a multitude of handling errors, although both teams were still able to display good running rugby.
After the teams traded early penalties, Mt Albert dominated possession in the first half.
They made that pay midway through the half when flanker Isaiah Papali’i used his strength and low body position to burrow over from close range.
Hastings were struggling to contain the Mt Albert backline, finding themselves on the wrong side of a 9-3 penalty count in the first half as they attempted to slow them down.
The few times Hastings did have ball in hand they looked dangerous. First-five Danny Toala made a couple of line breaks, only for the Mt Albert defence to shut him down before he reached the 22.
Hastings finally got a good spell of possession in the last 10 minutes of the half, but Mt Albert’s defence held strong.
An Oliver Shepherd penalty in the first three minutes of the second half had Mt Albert up by eight points.
Hastings made a big push to get back into the game at that point with a good spell of play inside the Mt Albert 22, but knock-ons let them down.
Toala knocked over his second penalty of the game to get his side back within five points with 23 minutes to go.
Hastings left wing Trent Hape was sent to the sin bin for not rolling away at a ruck - his side were earlier warned for infringing in their own 22.
It allowed Mt Albert back into the game and Shepherd landed a penalty to again establish the eight-point buffer with 12 minutes to go - it would prove to be a winning lead.
Mt Albert flanker Thomas Barlow also went to the bin with five minutes to go for a dangerous tackle, then Hastings’ Lincoln McClutchie joined him there for dissent towards the referee.
It was a frantic closing exchange in which Hastings scored a converted try after the final hooter to Jeriah Mua, but Mt Albert had already secured the win.
Mt Albert Grammar’s Isaiah Papali’i dives over to score.