Otago Boys High School was too good for Kings High School in atrocious conditions last night, winning the 72nd traditional fixture between the two school’s by 43-22. The win was Otago Boys’ 47th, ensuring they remain well up on the head-to-head ledger, while also maintaining bragging rights over their cross-town rivals for the next 12 months.
The match is always the most anticipated game on each school’s calendar, and is traditionally a close, physical battle, with plenty of feeling in every hit.
This year was no exception, particularly for the first half, where there was nothing between the two sides.
And indeed, it was Kings who led 15-7 midway through the first half as another tight struggle looked on the cards.
The breakdowns were an even battle early on, as the big Kings pack gave their more fancied opponents a scare, providing their backs with good ball to work with giving Otago Boys some problems on defence.
This led to two very good early tries to Kings, one coming from a sniping run down the blindside by halfback Caleb Gray before linking with his support player, and the other coming from a well worked pick-and-go sequence.
But it wasn’t to last, and Otago Boys rallied, scoring two quick tries as halftime approached, giving them the halftime lead, 19-15.
Scoring first after halftime was always going to be crucial for both teams, and it was Otago Boys who were able to cash in on this, as Brodie Hume finished off a break made by Jared Hewitt to take the score to 24-15.
From here Kings were always chasing the game, and although a try to openside flanker Ben Johnson brought the game back to 24-22, it always seemed as though Otago Boys were in control of the game.
And so they were, scoring three tries in the final 20 minutes to take the final score to 43-22.
It was a good game, as both teams looked to use the ball in freezing cold, wet conditions, making for an exciting game. And considering the conditions, there was a low error rate from both teams.
Otago Boys stand out player was Michael Collins, who made numerous breaks and looked dangerous the whole game. He scored the first try of the game and created many other opportunities in what was one of his best games in an Otago Boys jersey.
The loose forward trio of Brodie Hume, Harry Schaumann and Byron Dodge were influential and outplayed their opponents, proving to be one of the deciding factors in the game. Hume in particular had another very good game and must be in the running for higher honours later in the year.
Their lineout was dominant, with locks Josh Dickson and Michael McKee both shining, giving Otago Boys good ball to work with.
Halfback Caleb Gray was the best of the Kings players, running dangerously from the base and kicking well, while also doing a good job directing play, showing why he is one of the most promising players coming through in Otago.
Daniel Fowler was dangerous running from the back, but good defence saw the dangerous Kings backs didn’t get many opportunities to break free.
Openside flanker Ben Johnson was everywhere and had a strong game, while the tight five looked good early on, before falling away towards the end of the game.
The win all but ensures Otago Boys will finish on top of the table in the Highlanders First XV Competition, maintaining their unbeaten record in this competition and taking their season record to 12 wins and just one loss, in a tight game against Christchurch Boys High School.
There is still a chance Kings may miss the top four, but as that would rely on Waitaki Boys beating Otago Boys, it seems likely that they will make the four. This means they will get a chance to avenge their loss against their great rivals in the coming weeks.
However before all that the competition takes a two week break for school holidays. Once back one round remains, where Otago Boys will host Waitaki Boys in their sixth and final traditional fixture of the season, while Kings will take on Gore High School who are also placed in the top four.
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