Southern Cross Campus College will chase its first NZRL National Secondary Schools rugby league title when it takes on Kelston Boys' High School in the 2016 final at Papakura’s Bruce Pulman Park tomorrow (Friday).
At the same time mKelston has the chance to earn its third crown in four years, having prevailed in 2013-14.
Both teams have looked impressive all week, emerging unbeaten from their pools.
Southern Cross seemed to take that form into the knockout encounter against 15-time champions St Paul’s, jumping out to an early 8-0 advantage, which it still held at the break.
But the reigning Auckland champions charged back into contention and eventually tied the scores at 14-14 with a penalty goal from Jaelin Murray.
With golden-point looming, Natoa Kairau charged over next to the posts and Siave Togoiu converted as the final siren sounded to seal victory for Southern Cross.
“We always knew it would come down to who made the less errors and completed their sets,” said Southern Cross coach Rod Ratu.
“So, it was a bit of a see-saw match and we were fortunate to come through in the last couple of minutes.
“There was a lot of support out there for us and I have no doubt tomorrow there will be a few ex-players watching with a bit of interest.
“It’s a massive win for the school – this certainly helps fly the flag. The school will be proud of the boys.”
Kelston wasted no time imposing its dominance over Westlake Boys' High School, rattling on 22 points before its rival could find the scoreboard.
“It’s been a really good week for us,” said coach Phil Gordon.
“We’ve worked really hard on a few things and that paid off for us today.
“We put a lot of emphasis on what we needed to do as a team and nine times out of 10, if you achieve those goals, the result will look after itself. We just tried to control the game tempo and it paid off.
“Southern Cross are a bit of a juggernaut at the moment – a lot of footballers and some big boys in their team. We will need to lift again to make sure we’re up for the final.”
In the development grade, Onehunga High School sprung an upset over Trident High School, prevailing 30-10 to advance into the final.
It faces Tai Wananga, which dispatched Onehunga 20-16 in pool play on Tuesday.
Both finals will be shown LIVE on SKY Sport.
Southern Cross Campus also dominated when the major awards were handed out on Thursday afternoon.
Wing/second row Kakoi Togoiu won the Vodafone Warriors Most Valuable Player Award.
Togoiu scored his third try of the week in his team’s 20-14 semi-final win over St Paul’s College today and has been a key component of a potent attack that includes brother Siave and the event’s leading try-scorer Paea Fotu.
Southern Cross coach Rod Ratu was named Coach of the Tournament.
Other awards winners included Trident High School for Best Cultural Salute, Eric Kneepkens of Tasman as Best Match Official and Aranui High School as More Than Just a Game Awards winners in their final appearance before closing later this year.
NZRL NATIONAL SECONDARY SCHOOLS' TOURNAMENT
Vodafone Warriors Player of the Tournament | Kakoi Togoiu (Southern Cross Campus)
More Than Just A Game Team Award | Aranui HS
NZRL Best Cultural Salute | Trident HS
Coach of the Tournament | Rod Ratu (Southern Cross Campus)
Manager of the Tournament | Robyn Wackrow (Francis Douglas Memorial College)
Trainer of the Tournament | Caley McLean (Aranui HS)
Best Match Officials | Premier: Eric Kneepkens, Development: Paki Parkinson
Skills Fair Play Team of the Tournament | Avondale College
It's Not OK Best & Fairest Awards | Overall: Logan Thambrian (Westlake BHS), Premier: Utah Ioka (Kelston BHS); Development: Junior Fiu (Sir Edmund Hillary College)
Thursday, September 1
Premiership | Tokoroa HS 18, Aorere College 6; Wesley College 36, Otahuhu College 18; Southern Cross Campus 20, St Paul’s College 14 (semi); Aranui HS 20, Manukura School 18; Tamaki College 28, Manurewa HS 10; Kelston BHS 34, Westlake BHS 16 (semi); Avondale College 20, Mt Albert Grammar 12; Papatoetoe HS 17, St Thomas of Canterbury 16.
Development | Onehunga HS 30, Trident HS 10 (semi); Papakura HS 36, Francis Douglas Memorial College 20; Tai Wananga 30, Sir Edmund Hillary College 24 (semi).
Wednesday, August 31
Premiership | St Paul’s College 42, Manukura School 12; Kelston BHS 22, Mt Albert Grammar 12; Tokoroa HS 16, Wesley College 14; Westlake BHS 30, Avondale College 18; Manurewa HS 28, Papatoetoe HS 14; Aorere College 18, Otahuhu College 6; Tamaki College 22, St Thomas of Canterbury 16; Southern Cross Campus College 40, Aranui HS 8.
Development | Mt Roskill Grammar 30, Francis Douglas Memorial College 14; Tai Wananga 48, Papakura HS 10; Sir Edmund Hillary College 20, Trident HS 12.