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Kelston upset St Paul’s to win SAS CRL title

Kelston upset St Paul’s to win SAS CRL title

Kelston Boys’ High School have downed traditional heavyweights St Paul’s College to win yesterday’s SAS College Rugby League 1st XIII grand final 22-16.

In taking out the premier cup at Mount Smart Stadium Kelston avenged their loss in the decider last year, when they went down to the very same opponent on the very same ground 28-12.

It also means that for the next few weeks at least Kelston will hold the two biggest college rugby league titles on offer in New Zealand, having claimed the national championship in September last year.

First-year coach Phil Gordon, who took over from Dave McDermott at the start of 2014, said a weight had been lifted from the school after finally taking the CRL title off St Paul’s.

“I have got to be honest, there is a bit of relief,” Gordon said

“We did talk about going one better this year and what it would take to make that happen.

“We knew St Paul’s have been the benchmark rugby league school in this country for a long time.

“One thing that we learned throughout the year is that defence will win us games.

“The weight of possession went St Paul’s way in the first half and the boys showed better composure to know we would get our time and our opportunities.

“We had a couple of hiccups this year but I guess the most important thing is how we finished, not how we started.”

Kelston had been blown off the park in the opening exchanges, as St Paul’s raced out of the gates to score early tries through Xavier Rice and Vasi Leota.

A conversion from halfback Beau Cordtz gave the defending champions a 10-0 lead after only six minutes, and things looked ominous for Kelston.

The west Aucklanders hit back with a try to Charlie Kaipati and conversion to Zion Ioka minutes later, but poor discipline allowed their opponents to march straight back down field where Cordtz booted a penalty to take the lead out to 12-6.

A towering bomb from Ioka was put down by James Manoa just before half time, with Kelston’s Austin Masiutama, a late-starter at standoff, diving on the loose ball to tie the game up heading into the break.

With momentum on their side Kelston started the second half in positive fashion, making the most of time in the opposition half to go ahead after a try to giant prop Sam Feleti, who ran a hard line off the shoulder of hooker Delaney Chaney.

The play was accompanied by one of the biggest cheers from the vocal crowd at Mount Smart Stadium, with Feleti supported by a large group of friends from his west Auckland church.

St Paul’s were throwing plenty at their opponents on attack, but a stubborn Kelston line refused to be breached and repelled back-to-back sets heading into the final 10 minutes of the contest.

Eventually all that tackling took a toll, and the pure class of Cordtz shone through as he sent Manoa over for a try in corner. Cordtz pushed the sideline conversion wide to leave the score sitting 18-16 in Kelston’s favour.

Desperation took over as the clock wound down, and with a minute to go winger Peter Scanlan forced his way over for the game-winning score, handing Kelston a 22-16 win.

The game ended a long period of dominance from St Paul’s in the Auckland competition, with the central Auckland school having won the title seven times in the past eight years.

Coach Junior Fiu was disappointed his side couldn’t cap off an impressive season where they tasted defeat only once and were the stand-out side all through pool play, but looked forward to making amends at the national tournament.

“It is disappointing because we didn’t play the way we trained, but that is football and we just have to look forward to nationals now,” Fiu said.

“You have to get over it quick…it went wrong with some of our ‘one-percenters’ and some guys trying too hard, but all credit to Kelston and hopefully we get another crack at them at nationals.

Kelston 22 (Charlie Kaipati, Masiutama, Feleti tries; Ioka 3 goals. St Paul’s 16 (Rice, Leota, Manoa tries; Cordtz 2 goals. At Mount Smart Stadium

ENDS

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