St Paul’s Collegiate School’s sevens are off to compete in the national tournament from 2-4 December at Sacred Heart College after winning the Waikato Condors Sevens tournament on Wednesday 19 October.
The team will compete for top spot in New Zealand against 33 other schools with a seeding of 16th.
In the regional competition, earlier in the year, St Paul’s coach Andrew Gibbs says the team’s final two fixtures were “nothing short of heroic.”
With no rest between games, St Paul’s went straight from defeating Thames (35-5) into the semi-final against reigning national sevens champions Hamilton Boys High School who were fresh and rested after opting out of their quarter finals match against Hamilton Boys 2.
After an initial arm wrestle and some nice defensive plays from both teams, Jack Gordon broke the deadlock with a piercing run to open the scoring. Hamilton Boys then hit back with a sterling solo effort to lead by two at the break.
Hamilton Boys then scored immediately after half-time but their rapture was short lived. Luke Donaldson attacked down the right hand side, was tackled, placed the ball on the ground, got back to his feet, regathered the ball and then stepped four players before kicking clear and scoring under the posts.
Despite Luke’s superb display of skill, Hamilton Boys still lead by 14-10 with time almost up.
Defensive pressure from Hunter Johnson, Connor Collins and Sam Cooper forced a crucial turnover. Captain Della Neli raced away to be caught short of the line before he fed the ball to Connor Collins who scored and then converted the try.
St Paul’s won 17-14.
The team then faced St John’s College in the final, a game that Andrew describes as an “epic battle.”
Gordon Jack scored a magnificent try in the first half. St Paul’s led 5-0 at half time. In the second half, with only 30 seconds on the clock, St John’s got the ball to their fastest player which put St Paul’s at risk of losing the game.
St Paul’s sweeper and last line of defence Connor Collins wasn’t going to let this happen, he forced the St John’s player to ground 15-meters out from the posts. The pressure was then on the St John’s kicker to convert the try. He sliced the conversion to send the teams into sudden death.
Both teams had the opportunities to cover but failed due to stoic defence. With both teams dead on their feet captain Della Neli called for one last effort to seal the victory.
This finally came in the last minute of double overtime when Valynce Crosby-TeWhare broke clear and raced 50 meters with only one man to beat and Della supporting on the inside.
A calm draw and pass to Della was followed by rapture as he crossed the line for St Paul’s to take out the title 8-7.
Moving into the national tournament this week, Andrew is hoping for more heroic performances by St Paul’s sevens.