Above: Cooks Gardens in Whanganui hosts the Hurricanes U18 provincial competition final on Saturday.
- By Steven White
It’s the defending champions against the team chasing its maiden win.
The Whanganui U18s will be eyeing up their first Trust Bank Central Secondary Schools Provincial Rugby Tournament Shield title when they host the Wellington Centurions U18s in the final on Saturday.
The deciding match of this year’s Hurricanes U18 provincial tournament is at Cooks Gardens at 12.45pm and is the curtain-raiser to the Heartland Championship fixture between Whanganui and Ngati Porou East Coast.
Both teams go into this decider having won all three of their round-robin matches, with Whanganui top qualifier by virtue of an extra bonus point.
Whanganui have beaten Poverty Bay (51-22), East Coast (40-14) and the Hawke’s Bay Saracens (41-18).
The Centurions have had wins over Wairarapa Bush (36-22), the Wellington Samoans (17-12) and Horowhenua-Kapiti (62-10).
Last year, the Centurions beat Wairarapa Bush 50-10 in the final, while Whanganui were sixth out of eight teams.
Whanganui captain and lock Henry Kilmister said his team is looking forward to playing in the final at home.
“It is a big achievement for our team to have made the final, as we have only been training for four weeks,” said Henry. “It is only our second home game and is a privilege to be playing at Cooks Gardens. All the team wanted to play there last weekend but we played at Spriggens Park, so the team will really be looking forward to playing this weekend on a really good field.”
Henry is expecting a tough game.
“All its going to come down to is who wants the win the most out of the two teams. If our boys stick to what the coaches have taught us and run the pattern we want to run then we should hopefully be strong in the game. it is all down to mindset, and trusting the guy next to you, to do his own role, and you do yours.”
Vice-captain and first five-eighth Te Atawhai Mason agreed. “For many of us like myself it will be the first time playing on the Cooks Garden oval where for most of us watching our heroes growing up as young children.
“We have been happy with our team’s performance and form so far throughout the short competition. Although we are not the biggest team on the paddock our boys are willing to put up a fight and compete at any costs.”
Te Atawhai said sheer determination and hard work should see them through. “Preparation leading up to the big stage is key, keep the boys focused on the task ahead and be willing to work for each other until the final whistle.”
Henry and Te Atawhai, along with several other players including strapping No. 8 Semi Vodosese, are members of the Whanganui Collegiate First XV who finished runners-up in this year’s Central North Island tournament and made the final of the Quadrangular Tournament in early July, won by Nelson College.
They will be missing hooker Ben Strang, who has been selected in the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ team.
The Centurions co-captains are Scots College centre Sage Shaw-Tait and Wellington College flanker Ridge Studd.
Studd said the Ceturions are going to have to be focused to win.
“A lot of the boys are from Collegiate who I played against from Wellington College earlier this year. They were quick to pounce on our mistakes and had a couple of key players who were damaging. We are going to have to be accurate and dig deep to win this one,” he said.
Squad members Harry Press (NZ Barbarians Schools’) team and Blake Rogers (New Zealand Maori Under 18s) are two of their squad members who won’t be playing in this match.
The Trust Bank Secondary School Shield will be held aloft for the 29th time on Saturday.
Wellington teams have a firm grip on the title, having won 10 of the past 11 titles, with the exception being Hawke’s Bay in 2013.
Overall since this competition’s inception in 1992, Wellington teams including the Samoans (three times) and Centurions (once) have won 17 times, Hawke’s Bay 10 and Taranaki once.
Meanwhile, the 2016 and 2017 champions the Wellington Samoans are hosting Poverty Bay and Porirua Park at 1.00pm in the playoff for third and fourth.
The Hawke’s Bay Saracens and Horowhenua-Kapiti are contesting the fifth versus sixth place match and Wairarapa Bush and East Coast are playing for seventh and eighth.
Teams (subject to change):
1.Taumauru Hond, 2. Sjon Marino, 3. Stan Puapii, 4. Joe Abernethy, 5.Henry Kilmister (C), 6. Jack Gay, 7. Rongomai McLean-Wanoa, 8. Semi Vakasilimi Vodosese, 9. Max Crowley, 10. Te Atawhai Mason (VC), 11. Ioane Aki, 12. Dillon Adrole, 13. Sione Osamu, 14. Logan Henry, 15. Beau Horrigan RESERVES 16. Leo Allen, 17. Josefa Tamaniyaga, 18. Dawson Sisson, 19. Tomasi Connor, 20. Koby Lee, 21. Rangi Kui, 22. Ezra Malo.