Upstarts Wary of Nzrl Schools Death Pool
Upstarts Wary of Nzrl Schools Death Pool
Immediately after masterminding the first major upset of the 2015 NZRL Schools Nationals, Papatoetoe High School coach Kaiui Tukinga was quick to bring his players back down to earth.
They had just achieved the unimaginable, toppling two-time defending champions Kelston Boys 14-12 in the tournament’s opening round, after trailling 12-0 at halftime.
Given their respective standings in the rugby league community – Papatoetoe still languish in the Auckland competition second tier – this was a result worth celebrating from the rooftops, but Tukinga is under no illusions about the task still ahead of his boys in the self-proclaimed “pool of death”.
“Straight after the game, I sat them down and told them to enjoy the moment,” says Tukinga. “It’s a piece of history, beating a side of that standing.
“But when today is over, we need to refocus for Tokoroa High Schooltomorrow.”
Kelston had not arrived at Papakura’s Bruce Pulman Park in top form, having lurched through the Auckland CRL season and lost that title to arch-rivals St Paul’s College.
Papatoetoe loomed as a “banana-skin” game for the reigning champions, after beating rugby powerhouse Wesley College to take out the development title at this same event 12 months ago.
They also caused some ripples in the local competition this season, earning promotion into the championship, but tumbling back to the plate, after one of their players was found to be ineligible.
Still, they won that division, beating Aorere College in the final, and came into the national tournament with a chip on their collective shoulder, determined to prove a point.
“The momentum we lost through the season was a massive setback for our boys, but they have toughed it out,” says Tukinga. “We believe we have a strong team, strong enough to beat teams like Kelston, and we really revved them up for a grand-final performance today.
“We wanted to make the top four and we knew this was an important game to set up the rest of the week. Now, we face two more grand-final games in this pool of death.”
Tukinga’s caution seems well founded, after the day’s other Pool B encounter – Tokoroa v Tamaki College – came down to a protested goal kick.
Eventually, Tamaki’s 22-20 win was allowed to stand, but this group may yet have a further twist or two, before semi-finalists are confirmed on Wednesday.
Of the other pre-tournament favourites, St Paul’s and Otahuhu College easily accounted for Rosehill College (42-0) and Aorere (22-0) respectively, while Mt Albert Grammar could not quite put away Southern Cross Campus, emerging just 18-12 ahead at full-time.
Wesley showed they will again be difficult to overcome in the development grade, overwhelming newcomers Trident High School 56-0, while St Thomas of Canterbury were almost as convincing (54-0) over hosts Papakura HS.
On Day Two, Kelston must beat Tamaki to keep their title defence alive, while St Paul’s face Manurewa and Mt Albert take on former champions Aranui High School.
NZRL NATIONAL SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Bruce Pulman Park, Papakura
Monday, August 31
St Paul’s College 42 (Zephaniah Aerenga 2, Letuituia Eliu 2, Christopher Sio, Joseph Taungakaha & Beau Cordtz treis; Cordtz 7 goals) Rosehill College 0
Manurewa HS 30 (David Phillips 2, Joshua Uta, Sitaleki Pohahau, Michael Siali-Motu & Uati Aso, Nanga Iola 3 goals) Manukura School 0
Papatoetoe HS 14 (Lusa Crouch, Xavier Reid & George Pili tries; Foga Autagavaia goal) Kelston BHS 12 (Delaney Chaney-Puata & Elijah Sufia tries; Tairelle Parker 2 goals)
James Cook HS 12 (James Crichton & Samisoni Halalilo tries; Vaega Tautia 2 goals) Howick College 6 (Connor Morris try; Colt Salinond goal)
Tamaki College 22 (Lepa To'a, Joshua Iongi, Uluaki Tuipulotu & George Salu; Johnny Tea 2 & Johnny Lavaka goals) Tokoroa HS 20 (Toru Tuakana Natua, Josiah Vaevae, Troy Winter & Matthew Letoga tries; Neal Tai 2 goals)
Mt Albert Grammar 18 (Absaion Kakukauloka, Bostyn Hakaraia & Auzzie Tuwhangai tries; Hakaraia 3 goals) Southern Cross Campus 12 (Samiuela Kulimoeanga & Samiuela Launhingoa tries; Jan Sepaloni 2 goals)
Aranui HS 22 (Jesse Rangihuna, Tala Mailei, Tommy Belford & Tristan Jackson tries; Jope Gaunauou 2 & Belford goals) Mt Roskill Grammar 14 (Reginald Lino-Seiascia, Caleb Mulianga & Siale Pohahau tries; Lino-Seiascia goal)
Otahuhu College 22 (Alred Smalley 2, Paletasala Patelesio & Joseph Afemui tries; Komiti Vetemotu 3 goals) Aorere HS 0
Wesley College 56 (Rueben Unga 3, Nafe Helu 3, Deki Motusaga, Saia Lotu, Siope Tavo & Ofa Talakai tries; Wetere Pompey 8 goals) Trident HS 0
Westlake BHS 20 (Hemi McCarthy, Moses Leo, Fine Inisi, Lotu Inisi & Ryan Doubell tries) Whangarei BHS 10 (Paul Turner & Dylan Brown tries; Brown goal)
St Thomas of Canterbury 54 (Taani Taufa 3, Klayton Waihato 2, Will Barteli, Tahemaha Nui, Delane Luke & Morisby Peseta tries; Taufale Belford 4, Waihato 4 & Taufa goals) Papakura HS 0
Francis Douglas Memorial 30 (Enele Fidow 2, Jonathan Fidow, Mason Taylor & Luke Dravitzki tries; Shaun Phillips 5 goals) Onehunga HS 10 (Joseph Tangulu & Josiah Brown tries; Tangulu goal)