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Hawkins Division 1 Final - HSOB
High School Old Boys, who by their own accounts have flown under the radar for much of the regular season, start the Hawkins Trophy final on Sunday as clear favourites.
High School Old Boys’s performance against Lincoln University in their semi-final can only be described as ruthless: they were up 29-3 at half-time after scoring four tries and putting on perhaps their best half of the season.
“I don’t think we have played better than that,” their coach Nathan Mauger admitted after the match.
It was not only the fact that High School Old Boys scored points with it appeared complete ease. It was the way they combined controlled aggression with accuracy in all that they did especially, in this regard, their handling.
High School Old Boys were not as clinical in the second half although did enough to win 38-17 to ensure they go in to the Hawkins Trophy final as firm favourites.
“I was quietly confident going into the semi-final,” Mauger said. “We had played well in our last two matches against Sydenham and Marist Albion and so I knew that we had a performance like this in us.”
While disappointed that his side had eased off in the second half, Mauger said that it remained difficult to play with the same intensity for the full 80 minutes.
“The pleasing thing for us is the way that we carried the ball, the way we off-loaded and our defence. We did not give them a sniff. We really respected them. They have had a great season and so we were up for it.”
Mauger said his side had been working hard on a number of its core skills, for example its line-kicking. He said he was heartened by the improvements being made.
Mauger, who himself won the Trophy with the club in 2001 alongside his brother Aaron and Andrew Mehrtens, said his side had grown. “That’s what you really want as a coach: the team to be growing week by week and peaking at the right times during the season.”
High School Old Boys has a number of stars right now. Canterbury prop Paea Fa’anunu was a stand-out last weekend: terrific at set piece and dynamic with ball in hand. He was the best player on the field. Fletcher Smith continues to grow. As mentioned above, his line-kicking was immense. Veteran backs Chris Small and Steve Gee (playing his 150th game last weekend) were outstanding.
Finals rugby is of course a different beast to round-robin play. Still if High School Old Boys can play to their potential on Sunday they will be extremely difficult to beat.
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