TARGET LOCKED IN
A clean sweep last year means St Paul’s Collegiate start the 2015 season as the team to beat in the Central North Island competition. DANIEL RICHARDSON reports.
The Central North Island competition continues to prove it is a worthwhile addition in the First XV landscape.
The chasing pack is after St Paul’s Collegiate School in the Central North Island competition. The tournament, which moves in to its fourth edition this season, is generally a tightlycontested affair but St Paul’s made a mockery of that last year. The Hamilton school went through the eight-team competition unbeaten and breezed past Francis Douglas Memorial College 32-14 in the final. Five teams emerged last year as the frontrunners and St Peter’s School from Cambridge were the unlucky side to miss the semifinals. Lindisfarne College and Feilding High School were the beaten semifinalists. The competition began in 2012 as each school had a mutual interest in finding more competitive games having blown out their local opposition, aside from the big, rugby-minded boys schools. The players have also gained further exposure due to increased television coverage and representative coaches have spotted the talent. “It gives the boys an experience beyond their provincial stuff and local competitions but it also allows them to be seen,” Francis Douglas coach Tim Stuck says. “It’s good to see boys from our comp making Hurricanes and Chiefs and New Zealand rep sides.” Many of the schools are similar in the makeup of their students and tend to be undersized compared with other colleges but play an exciting brand of fast-paced rugby. St Paul’s will be led by hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho who is aiming to make the New Zealand Secondary Schools side this year. Francis Douglas, who have brought back six players from last season’s squad, including frontrowers Brendon Dent and Luke Dravitzki, will be leading the charge to knock St Paul’s off their perch when the competition starts in June. “We are not huge but we’ve got a lot of ticker and we are rugged,” Stuck says. Lindisfarne, who won the competition in 2012, want to move the ball around more this year compared to previous seasons and new recruit James Lawson should help the outside backs. The Hawke’s Bay school also have plenty of experience in their forwards.
Lindisfarne usually begin their season by meeting local sides before tackling the Central North Island competition.
“It’s perfect for our school,” coach Ben Spriggens says. “We tend to take a while to get in to the season.”
Feilding High School, defending champions in the national co-ed competition, have goal-kicking halfback Tom Stewart and hooker Chris Cairns ready to make an impact.
St Peter’s will look to their midfield of Matt Mauai and Jack Foster to provide the go-forward after a host of players from last year’s side have left.
Coach Sean Hohneck says the competition provides a great springboard for his players to develop.
“We are all of reasonably similar ability, which means the games are always tight,” Hohneck says.
Wanganui Collegiate have changed their coaching setup this season with Karl Hoskin and Te Ahu Teki taking over.
Collegiate have a young side but with a renewed focus on rugby washing through the school, they’re shaping to be a contender in coming seasons.
St John’s College didn’t fire a shot last year as they lost all seven games and will need to improve this season, alongside Rathkeale College who won only one from seven in 2014.
Lindisfarne will begin the season with the Rick. T. Francis Memorial Shield, which is up for grabs in any game, home or away, except the playoffs.
Francis, who passed away in 2012, was an instrumental figure in the rise of rugby at Feilding High School and was well known throughout the central North Island.
Meanwhile, recruitment remains a dirty word in the competition with few schools happy to discuss how they inevitably have a couple of new players turn up on their roster every year.
Each coach is keen to point the finger around the competition but the fact remains that it’s a common practice.
“Any school that takes rugby semiseriously does it,” one coach says.
DIRECT HIT Asipeli Mafua’taimi takes off on a run.
right: NEAR THING Francis Douglas made
the final last year
left: UNDER STICKS Lindisfarne score a welcome five points.