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Wairarapa College in huge upset

By Gary Caffell
Wairarapa College produced a big upset in the quarter-finals of the Wellington premier one secondary schoolboys rugby competition with their 7-3 win over Scots College last Saturday.
Scots were the number one first XV in the country in 2014 and runners-up last year, a record which made them firm favourites to dispose of Wairarapa College.
“I don’t think anybody gave us a chance going into this game,” Wairarapa College coach Chris Senior said. “All the press and feedback coming out of Wellington was about who was going to win the other semi, they took ours as a foregone conclusion,”
Senior said the feeling in the Wairarapa College camp was rather different. They accepted they were the underdogs but they had competed well enough against Scots with a depleted side earlier in the season to believe they could give a strong account of themselves.
The match was played in challenging conditions with persistent showers and a 55km/h wind making life difficult for the players and it was Scots who called the early tune with Hurricanes under-18 fullback Connor Garden-Bachop consistently turning Wairarapa around. However, thanks to some excellent positional play by their fullback Brad Griffiths and strong kicks by Guy Percy, Wairarapa managed to withstand that pressure.
A successful penalty attempt gave Scots a 3-0 lead but the rest of the first half was a battle royal with both teams defending well whenever the other launched an attack. Scots had a winger yellow-carded for a tip tackle just before the break.
The second spell began with Scots kicking deep with the idea of pinning Wairarapa in their own territory but Wairarapa earned enough possession to often turn the tables on their opposition..
Wairarapa came close to scoring after a 35m burst by Tua Levi was pulled up agonisingly short of the line but they then managed to force a scrum from the resultant lineout and some fancy footwork from Jack Harley saw him cross for what would be the match-winning try. Brad Griffith was on target with the conversion from a wide angle and Wairarapa were ahead 7-3 with just 20 minutes to play.
Scots were not done with though. They spent the last eight minutes camped in the Wairarapa 22m but the defence was magnificent, consistently finding a way to halt Scots’ progress and making several crucial turnovers.
Coach Senior described the feeling at hearing the final whistle as “overwhelming, that last few minutes felt like a lifetime”.
The win was huge for Wairarapa College on many counts. It took them into a semifinal against unbeaten Wellington College this weekend. Their last clash saw Wellington win 22-0 and Senior said they were clearly the favourites to win the division title this year.
“We will have to be at our best, and some, if we want to get even close to them,” he said.
The quarter-final victory also means Wairarapa automatically qualify to play at premier one level in Wellington against next year and they will also be part of the Tranzit Coachlines first XV festival, which involves all the elite rugby schools in the Hurricanes region like Hastings Boys, Gisborne Boys, Palmerston North Boys and Napier Boys.
“This is a huge tourney with many of the games being televised and it is a real opportunity for our college and players to be recognised on the national stage,” Senior said.

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