Wanganui Collegiate barely escaped another defeat at the hands of Wanganui High School in the 1st XV rugby clash to decide the Co-ed Cup regional finalist yesterday.
While Collegiate took the early lead and halftime honours, they were fortunate to produce a late rally in the second spell to finally take the match 15-11.
WHS beat Collegiate in last year’s inter-school derby and went on to narrowly lose the regional Co-ed Cup final against Wairarapa.
Yesterday, on home turf, WHS appeared to have all the running in the first half with the smaller forwards putting the Collegiate pack under pressure.
The constant pressure created good turnover ball, forced handling errors and even allowed WHS to win lineouts and scrums against the feed.
Collegiate opted to begin with several of their stars on the bench, but fortunately ace No10 Steven Perofeta was in the starting line-up and managed an exciting runaway try down the sideline from inside his own half to score the first points.
It was definitely against the run of play at that early stage. Unfortunately, Perofeta was not able to convert his own try with a strong crosswind playing havoc.
WHS continued to apply the pressure in the first half and had half-chances to score themselves. The Collegiate defence stayed strong, but midway through the spell WHS were rewarded with a penalty. The crosswind, however, again played its part.
Late in the spell the hard work paid off for WHS when Keanu Puki-Kaa crossed for a five-pointer to close the scoreline to 5-all. Minutes before the halftime whistle Collegiate were given a penalty right out in front and Perofeta made no mistake this time, the halftime score 8-5 to Collegiate.
Then, just as the referee was about to blow to signal halftime, Collegiate hooker Nick Cave was sent crashing to the ground after a heavy tackle and had to be assisted off the field in a slightly groggy state.
Collegiate coach Denis Edwards decided to give his bench a run in the second spell and managed to reclaim some composure, but the team were in catch-up mode after two successful penalties from WHS kicker Daniel Kauika.
It took a late try from Collegiate No8 Joe Edwards and a conversion from Perofeta to take the victory and the chance to represent Wanganui in the upcoming Co-ed Cup regional final.
WHS Coach Carl Gibson was pleased with the performance of his young side which would only improve from the encounter.
“They never gave up and certainly had their measure, especially in the first half. We only have three players from last season, so it’s very much a rebuilding phase and I thought they handled it well,’ Gibson said.
“I thought our captain Fagan Lemilie and our Player of the Day No8 Laurence Webber had outstanding games.”
Edwards agreed with his counterpart and praised the efforts of the opposition.
“These High School boys played very well and never let up. It was always my intention to give some of our younger guys a run in the first half then bring back the more experienced guys and while I’m not that happy with the way we played, we came away with the win and qualify for the Co-ed Cup. I made sure we were entered this year,” Edwards said.
By Iain Hyndman – WANGANUI CHRONICLE