Rathkeale College First XV co-captain Cooper Jamieson is picked up by Wesley College defenders. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
The Rathkeale College First XV put up a brave fight against defending champions Wesley College in their Central North Island Championship match at Rathkeale on Thursday afternoon.
Wesley beat Feilding High School 32-28 in a thrilling final last year, and take a rich rugby history with them wherever they go.
Many people would associate the school with the late Jonah Lomu, but they also produced other All Blacks including Charles Piutau, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Malakai Fekitoa.
Last year’s competition saw four teams finish the regular season with seven wins from their nine matches, and this year it is just as even.
Wesley had won five of their seven matches to date, while Rathkeale were just behind after winning three of their six matches.
Wesley encountered some problems on their trip down when their bus was found to be overweight on a weighbridge, but that didn’t seem to affect them too much when the match began.
Rathkeale opened the scoring through a penalty to first five-eighth Jack Eschenbach, but that was the only scoring they managed in the first half as Wesley got into their work.
The difference in size between the two teams was clear for everyone to see, but Rathkeale showed great determination to hold the visitors out for long periods.
Wesley ran in three first-half tries to lead 15-3 at the break, but some wayward goalkicking ensured Rathkeale were never out of the contest.
Rathkeale closed the gap to 9-15 in the second half, but they fell just short of pulling off an upset victory.
The occasion was especially significant for Rathkeale co-captain Cooper Jamieson who brought up his 50th cap against Wesley.
It wasn’t the result he was after, but he was in the thick of everything in a Rathkeale midfield that had to work hard to contain their opposition.
Feilding High School are leading the competition with seven wins from their seven matches, but Wesley are well-placed to make a late run for back-to-back titles.
Rathkeale No 8 Harry McKay had another impressive game on Thursday, and he would have been buoyed by the news he has been called up the Hurricanes under-18 training camp squad.