Two quick tries midway through the second half saw Otago Boys High School defeat Southland Boys High School in the final of the Highlanders First XV competition in Dunedin today. The game remained in the balance for the first half before the home side broke away to beat the two-time defending champions 30-11.
No doubt the result of last year’s final lingered in the minds of many of the Otago Boys team, where Southland Boys won 50-14 in a commanding performance. Today couldn’t have been more different.
The first half saw Otago Boys dominate territory and possession and have numerous chances to cross the line. Indeed, it was they who got the scoring underway with a penalty early on. Despite this, it was Southland Boys who crossed the line first, pouncing on an Otago Boys mistake to score in the corner. The try came against the run of play, as Otago Boys had made all the play but weren't able to cross.
The remainder of the first half played out in a similar fashion, with Otago Boys dominating play but let themselves down with poor passing and handling. They finally crossed in the final stages of the half, after a good run and a couple of brilliant offloads saw Eti Slater crash over in the corner. A Southland Boys penalty brought the score to 11-8 at the break.
Southland Boys appeared to come out much more hungry in the second half and scored first with a well-struck penalty. This levelled the score and it seemed it was going to be a question of who wanted it more heading into the final 25 minutes.
It was Otago Boys that took the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring two tries in as many minutes to put one hand on the trophy with 20 minutes to go. The first try came after a good build-up saw Michael Collins break a midfield tackle to score under the posts. The try was converted. Just minutes later, Sean Connor found himself in the clear 40 metres out and ran in to score the decisive try.
With the score at 23-11 Otago Boys never looked like losing from then on in. A final try in the last five minutes from winger Jared Hewitt put the result beyond doubt, taking the score to 30-11.
The Otago Boys' looseforward trio were dominant, with Brodie Hume in particular having a very good game as always. Michael Collins was the best of the backs, defending well while also looking dangerous with ball in hand.
They will now progress onto the South Island Final where they will meet Press Cup Champions, St Bedes, for the right to represent the South Island at the National Top Four Competition in Rotorua.