Wairarapa College captain Sam Smith attacking against Rongotai College in the grading match. PHOTO/FIONA BEATTIE

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

The Wairarapa College First XV are on a mission to knock over the big boys in this year’s Wellington premiership rugby competition.

Captain Sam Smith says they will be chasing a top four finish, and that quest begins with a home match against Rongotai College on Saturday.

The two teams are familiar with each other, having met two weekends ago in a crucial grading match, which ended in a 22-all draw.

Wairarapa College gained qualification to the premiership courtesy of scoring the first try, leaving Rongotai to battle Aotea College for a spot in the top grade.

Rongotai won 48-21 to secure their spot, but this weekend it is Waicol who will have home advantage.

If Waicol are to emulate the top four finish they achieved in 2016, they will need to beat the lower ranked teams but also knock over some of the big guns along the way.

In 2016, they stunned Scots College 7-3 in the quarterfinals to reach the final four, but were swamped by a rampant Wellington College side in the semifinals.

Smith said they were ready to go after a long pre-season.

“I think this year is a strong year for us, because we’ve been building for a couple of years.

“The team is well structured and we’ve got some good coaches – we’ve still got a few things to work on but I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Waicol have lost some key players from last year’s squad, but Smith said their replacements were more than capable of doing the job.

The draw with Rongotai was still fresh in their minds after a weekend off, and they were keen to right a few wrongs this weekend.

“We made it tough on ourselves in that match and they capitalised on our mistakes.

“We’re ready to play them again and this time we’re at home, so hopefully it’s a different story.”

Waicol enjoyed the week off after playing six pre-season matches, and they finished with a handy record in that time.

“We’ve won five and drew the last one, and the hard work is paying off after the pre-season,” Smith said.

“As a team, I think we would be looking at making the top four this year.

“I can see us doing that – we just have to roll a couple of big teams.”

It has been a long wait for the competition to start, and containing their enthusiasm may be a key for the players in the early stages of the match.

“Everyone is itching to get out there,” Smith said.

“We’ve had all the build up so just have to see what we can do with the season now.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 1.30pm at Waicol.

Next weekend Waicol will have home advantage once again as they take on the defending champions, St Pat’s Silverstream.

Meanwhile, the Rathkeale College First XV endured a tough start to their Central North Island campaign, going down 0-27 to Feilding High School on Saturday.

This weekend, Rathkeale will travel to St John’s College in Hastings.