Monday, December 11, 2023

PURC U21s crowned Auckland Champions in thrilling clash 

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The PURC U21s are Auckland champions after defeating Grammar TEC in Saturday’s grand final at Bell Park. Times Photo / Wayne Martin

They’ve done it! The Pakuranga United Rugby Club (PURC) U21 men are Auckland champions!

A late venue change saw the undefeated U21s (Cannons) host Grammar TEC on Bell Park in front of a vocal crowd on Saturday morning. The Cannons won 23-15.

The teams met in round robin back in April, with the Cannons winning 27-17 that day, also on Bell Park.

FULL PHOTO GALLERY: PURC U21 vs. Grammar TEC | Arthur Bayliss Cup Final

First five Riley Harrison calmly slotted an early penalty to put the team in front 3-0 before the Cannons crossed for their first try 10 minutes into the first half. A well worked line out move saw Daren Uili show his strength by powering through the defence from close range to nab the five pointer which Harrison duly converted.

The Cannons celebrate an important try in front of a packed Bell Park crowd. Times Photo / Wayne Martin

Far from one-way traffic, Grammar TEC bounced back with a converted try of their own midway through the first half.

Elkanah Petelo had several menacing runs down the left flank and crossed for a try to extend the Cannons’ lead to 15-7 at halftime.

The team traded second half penalties before a Grammar TEC try was awarded much to the ire of the home crowd who thought the player went out before scoring. The conversion bounced off the upright onto the crossbar and away, leaving the Cannons with a 18-15 lead to defend in the last 20 minutes.

While the match lost some structure in the latter parts of the game, Harrison did a good job with his territorial kicking to keep the Cannons at the right end of the field.

It was a sneaky kick through the line from reserve halfback Regan McGregor and a tenacious chase line that put Grammar TEC under pressure close to their line, and when a pass went to ground, second five Kalepo Paualaisa pounced to score and extend the Cannons’ lead to 23-15.

The closing exchanges were tense as Grammar TEC had a number of attacking opportunities, all of which were thwarted by championship-winning defence.

The Arthur Bayliss Cup is the third piece of silverware that the Cannons have claimed in their undefeated season alongside the Whetton Brother Cup and the Sir Wilson Whineray Challenge Cup. Times Photo / Wayne Martin

Pakuranga director of rugby Grant ‘Boof’ Henson says Saturday was the icing on the cake for an awesome season.

“Our boys all came from local areas and 1B schools and, together with a good coaching crew, they just went from strength to strength this year. What really stood out to me was their culture, they had a large squad that kept together and really embodied one club, one culture.

“It’s exciting for the future of the club as many of those boys will be competing for starting spots in the prem team next season,” Henson says.

After their efforts on Saturday, the Cannons raised the Arthur Bayliss Cup to go alongside the Whetton Brother Cup and the Sir Wilson Whineray Challenge Cup, which they also claimed during their undefeated season.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same storybook ending for the PURC premier development side who went down in the Peter Fatialofa Trophy final to Puketapapa.

Auckland club rugby finals results  

Premier men results:  

Gallagher Shield Final (1 v 2): University 14 – Manukau Rovers 20

Jubilee Trophy Final (5 v 6): Suburbs 14 – Papatoetoe 41

Portola Trophy Final (9 v 10): Otahuhu 22 – Waitemata 35

Premier reserve men  

George Nicholson Trophy Final (1 v 2): Manukau 10 – Waitemata 29

Peter Fatialofa Trophy Final (5 v 6): Pakuranga 26 – Puketapapa 36  

 U21 Men  

Arthur Bayliss Cup Final (1 v 2): Grammar TEC 15 – Pakuranga 23  

Stan Foster Memorial Plate Final (5 v 6): College Rifles 15 – Waitemata 22

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