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Hawkins Division 1 Final - New Brighton Champions
At the conclusion of an intriguing if not gripping Hawkins Trophy final many of the gold and black-wearing New Brighton fans swarmed on to the field like bees to a honey-pot. Their emotion was plain for all to see and a reflection of what Metro rugby still means to so many.
While the 16-14 final scoreline might reflect a close contest, for up to 60 minutes New Brighton dominated the final. They played with ongoing intensity and never let High School Old Boys settle into any rhythm or pattern.
Missed penalties (two by each side) were the feature of the first quarter: New Brighton would have been more concerned as they were playing with the wind.
Yet when New Brighton’s Stefan Moir kicked his first two penalties the Seasiders started to play. Soon after first five-eight Scott Davidson weaved his way through three defenders, off-loaded to second-five Fia Meafou, who then beat full back Chris Small to the line to score the first try.
Finals rugby is all about getting ahead and staying ahead. Now up 13-0, New Brighton might have rued a missed penalty just before the break. Yet they came back in the second half with renewed vigour and passion. A further Moir penalty was just reward for their efforts.
While the wind was not as strong in the second half, New Brighton dominated territory and even with 20 minutes remaining the Seasiders appeared to have the game won such was their dominance and control.
Still, when High School Old Boys chanced their arm with 15 minutes remaining, broke down the outside and left wing Joe Taylor score a delightful try it was game on.
High School Old Boys kept on trying and when Taylor scored again with no time remaining it showed what could have happened had they bean more adventurous earlier.
“It’s the team (who has won this),” New Brighton’s American lock Ben Nelson said after the game. “It’s all 22 of us.” Nelson said “he was a little bit familiar” with the 29-year gap between titles. “One of the 1984 players, our manager Ron Vette, talked to us before the Marist game and told us that there were a lot of similarities between that team and this team. I guess now we have another thing in common.”
In his 11th season with the side, number eight Aaron McCoy said he “was stoked” with the Trophy win. “Playing for so long, it was certainly motivation for me. I was just trying to stay with our system and help the boys get through. We had a Kia Kaha chant that really helped us in the last 20 minutes. Our supporters were just great today.”
High School Old Boys coach Nathan Mauger said his side had shown great character and had never given up. “We scored points too late, but credit to New Brighton they were better than us today and they deserved their win.”
There were tears of joy and plenty of relief and satisfaction amongst the New Brighton players, coaches, administrators and supporters on Sunday after the club was crowned Metro champion for the first time in 29 years.
New Brighton co-coach Steve Ellis was full of praise for his players. “The boys were outstanding. We knew that the club had a heart and a soul that could carry us through. We were playing for the community today as much as anyone else. That part of town (the east) has been hit pretty hit hard and that has affected a lot of the boys. You saw the character out there today.”
Ellis, who has won two titles with Burnside, says New Brighton has meant a lot to him. “I first got involved with the club back in the 1980s when (coach) Ceddie Smith got me along as a fitness coach. I played soccer growing up and so it was nice to be able to come back to the club.”
Ellis said that his side had had the best win/loss record and that it was only the lack of bonus points that had cost them in the first round. “The first half of the season means nothing. It really is about building and being at your best at this time of the year. I respect Old Boys but we controlled 70 minutes of the game. We gave them (the players) a game-plan and they stuck to it.”
Ellis said that the actions of wing Ben Murphy reflected the spirit within the side. “He was playing his last match today after playing over 100 games for the club. He didn’t even tell the boys because he didn’t want it to be about him. Guys like him, who have done so much for the club, it’s special to be able to do it for them.”
New Brighton Rugby Development Officer Roddy Butt, a man whom much of the credit for the title can go to, was in tears after the match as the reality of the win set in.
“Awesome, brilliant,” Butt said. “I had hoped it would feel like this but I didn’t want to think about it. I am part of an organisation that has been running very well. The players and coaches should obviously take a lot of credit and (club chairman) Wayne Turner too: he has instigated a lot of things and got a lot of things happening.”
Butt said New Brighton had played most of the rugby and would have been unlucky to lose. “They (High School Old Boys) had a speedster out on the wing and we knew that. They had their opportunities in the last few minutes but we had done enough to win thankfully.”
“This has been the highlight for me and my involvement in rugby. It was a team effort. Twenty-nine years (since the club last won the Trophy) is a long time.”
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