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World champions!

• Howick and Botany Times

REIGNING SUPREME: Saint Kentigern College First XV has arrived home after adding the Sanix World Youth Rugby title to its Auckland 1A and national top-four championships. Times photo Wayne Martin.

SAINT Kentigern College First XV felt right at home on its march to the prestigious schoolboy rugby world championship.

St Kents defeated Hartpury College of England in the final of the Sanix World Youth Rugby Invitational Tournament last Sunday at Global Arena, Fukuoka, Japan.

The comprehensive victory completes Saints’ rise from back-to-back Auckland 1A title holders to New Zealand top-four victors and now world champions.

The annual world tournament pits eight Japanese schools against eight international teams representing their national unions.

The opening ceremony included a Scottish pipes and drums band, which is also a pre-game ritual of the St Kents First XV.

“This is part of the tradition of Sanix and made us feel quite at home,” says St Kents’ head of sport Martin Piaggi.

Saints cruised through pool play, beating Enisei-STM of Russia 55-0, Japan’s Meikei High School 67-0 and Tokai University Gyosei High School 36-7.

“The Japanese are extremely well drilled and technically very good,” says Mr Piaggi.

“Their lineout was outstanding and they retained possession well, moving the point of contact very quickly.

“Unfortunately they can’t compete at scrum time, they miss too many first-up tackles and don’t have game breakers.”

In the quarter-final against Japan’s Gose Industrial High School, St Kents scored in the first minute through loose forward Blake Gibson.

“We then had a flat patch and struggled a bit with combinations. The forwards were playing very well, but the backs not quite gelling,” says Mr Piaggi.

Despite the struggles, St Kents got out to a 28-0 halftime lead and won 66-12.

Australia’s Nudgee College was similarly dispatched 45-7 in the semi-final, setting up the decider against pre-tournament favourites Hartpury College.

“[It was] a battle between the very big and confident English schoolboy champions and the very skilful and expansive New Zealand schoolboy champions,” says Mr Piaggi.

Saints raced out to a 19-0 lead in as many minutes through tries to Gibson, Sam Nock and Blake Van Der Maas.

“You could tell they had lifted themselves to play a knockout final.

“Hartpury then had a period of play where they had an abundance of possession but could not penetrate the defensive systems the team has perfected.

“The best they could come away with was three points.”

The halftime lead was 26-3 and “you could sense that Hartpury was resigned to its fate”, says Mr Piaggi.

An incident in the second half saw red and yellow cards issued to Hartpury players, with Saints also receiving a yellow card.

Hartpury scored its only try shortly after, with Saints crossing once more in the resounding 40-10 victory.

Mr Piaggi says St Kents midfielder TJ Faiane was the standout player of the tournament.

“He has taken his game to a new level. Both on attack and defence, he was without peer.

“This is a tight group of young men. They are professional in everything they do.

“The management of the team through Jerry Leaupepe and the coaching by Tai Lavea and Josh Syms ticks all the boxes.

“The goal was to win the tournament, but the opportunity to settle on combinations and give bench players time on the field has been invaluable.

“This will be a difficult year for the First XV. We have a large target on our back. Everyone will play a test match against us this year.

“There will be real bragging rights associated with beating Saint Kentigern College.”

Saints’ first match as world champions is against Otahuhu College away this Saturday at 2.30pm.

Saint Kentigern College First XV Sanix world championship winning squad: Cody Wheeler, Thomas Sinclair, Blake Gibson, Samuela Taiseni, Jospeh Mitai, Tanielu Tele’a, Jonathan Cato, Jack Falloon, George Hollingworth, Matthew Morrison, Blake Knight, Blake Van Der Maas, Faase’e Faauli, Sesimani Tupou, TJ Faiane, Dillon Wihongi, Seketo’a Tameifuna, Harrison Marks, Matthew Corliss, Dalton Papalii, Pari Pari Osborne-Parkinson, Jethro Felemi, William Raea, Patrick Herbert, Fafamanatuga Lafaele, Sam Nock, William Phipps, Farrell Keil, Jerry Samania, Finaly Christie, Suliasi Vunivalu. Manager: Jerry Leaupepe. Coaches: Tai Lavea, Josh Syms.





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