Kelston Boys’ High School downed perennial powerhouse St Paul's College 22-16 to win Auckland’s SAS College Rugby League First XIII grand final at Mount Smart Stadium today.
The encounter was a repeat of last year's title match-up, a contest in which Kelston was soundly beaten 12-28.
A few weeks later they won the New Zealand Secondary School Rugby League Nationals title – beating Mount Albert Grammar School in the final – and had been right in the mix again during the 2014 CRL competition losing an 18-19 heartbreaker to St Paul's during regular season play.
Today the Kelston players looked hungry for retribution.
They didn't make it easy, though, and found themselves down by two tries early.
St Paul's, which entered the match seeking its third-straight regional title, started superbly with two scores inside seven minutes.
Dummy half Xavier Rice was the first on the score sheet after a clever inside run from close range took him in underneath the bar with just four minutes gone.
Vasi Leota added to the score-line three minutes later when he was afforded space by halfback Beau Cordtz, who sliced the defence wide open with some deceptive footwork. Cordtz, rugby league great Ruben Wiki’s nephew, missed the conversion to leav the score at 10-0.
Kelston managed to stem the flow at this point and then set about climbing into the contest.
Just two minutes after Leota's try, Kelston centre Charlie Kaipati took advantage of a big overlap and dived over wide out on the right.
On its next venture downfield, St Paul's College received a penalty from close range and opted for the two-pointer, which Cordtz slotted to stretch the lead out to 12-6.
Shortly before halftime Kelston negated the lead through stand-off Austin Masiutama, who leapt on a loose ball after James Manoa was unable to hold onto a swirling Zion Ioka bomb. The teams were level 12-12 at the break.
Kelston carried the positive momentum into the second half and was the first to score. Giant prop Sam Feleti set himself in the pocket and ran hard onto a ball from halfback Delaney Chaney, his forward progress proving irresistible and taking over the line. Ioka's kick made it 18-12.
St Paul's marched the ball downfield with intent but, as on many occasions, the Kelston’s goal-line defence proved up to the task.
St Paul's finally found a gap on Kelston's right edge, though, with fullback Manoa managed to ground the ball right in the corner in the 43rd minute. Cordtz was unable to swing the kick around, leaving Kelston with an 18-16 lead.
Yet again St Paul's put itself in position to score but was met with desperate, backs-to-the-wall goal-line defence from Kelston's forwards.
Finally when Kelston regained possession it was able to seal the match.
Winger Peter Scanlon fought his way through traffic to ground the ball just a minute from the final siren, much to the delight of the many supporters who had flocked to support the West Auckland school.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kelston Boys’ High School 22 (Charlie Kaipati, Austin Masiutama, Sam Feleti, Peter Scanlon tries; Zion Ioka 3 conversions).
St Paul's College 16 (Xavier Rice, Vasi Leota, James Manoa tries; Beau Cordtz conversion, penalty).
Referee: Kikorangi Puhipi-Hibbs.
St Paul's College: James Manoa; Gerar Vili (c), Scott Tofa-Timoteo, Justus Areaiiti, Vasi Leota; Finau Payne, Beau Cordtz; Victor Vakameilalo, Xavier Rice, Junior Savelio; Elijah Tufui, Amoni Tufui; Maryn Murray. Interchange: Soane Hufanga, Sean Tofa-Timeteo, Stanmore Palavi, Billy Valu.
Kelston Boys’ High School: Junior Pauga; Peter Scanlon, Onosai Nanai, Charlie Kaipati, Fuatupu Lisati; Austin Masiutama, Zion Ioka; Aidan Ioane, Delaney Chaney, Sam Feleti; Aidan Taua, Eddie Wulf; Utah Ioka. Interchange: Jonas Hennings, Kyle Blunkell, Shute Key, Alex Sele.