Emotional win for St Pat's Silverstream
AND SAM BOYER
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St Pat's Silverstream beat arch-rivals St Pat's Town at Evans Bay today in an emotional rugby encounter.
The Silverstream players dedicated their 22-20 victory to their former schoolmate Zelius Venter, a Year-10 student at the school who died this week following a mountain biking accident in Upper Hutt.
Halfback Luke Coulston said the team had put extra effort into the match to win it for Zelius, who was a promising junior rugby player himself before his fatal accident.
''We all played for him today. We're going through a hard time. It's sad to hear that he's gone ... We did it for his family,'' he said.
The two teams and more than 1000 spectators observed a minute's silence for Zelius before the game kicked off this afternoon.
At the ref's whistle following the minute there was subdued cheering from the Silverstream pupils lining one side of the field.
The St Pat's Silverstream first XV - wearing black arm-bands - followed their hosts with an emotional haka.
The two teams then needed to be separated on the half way line before kick-off. David Cournane, manager for the Silverstream team, said the game had taken on added significance.
"I guess it's just stepped it up what's already a massive game in the competition. There's some real emotion about it. The young fella hasn't even been laid to rest yet it's incredibly raw for them."
The Silverstream school community has been rocked by the death of the year 10 student , a keen sportsman who would have been part of the junior exchange between the schools.
"It will be emotional," Silverstream first XV captain Andy Knight said before the game.
"A lot of us know the family and some of the younger boys in the team were very close to Zelius. It was devastating and we'll do our best to honour him."
The rugby match is the focal point of the annual winter exchange that comprises 10 matches over seven sports, the others being football, hockey, basketball, athletics, badminton and golf.
The match was televised live on Sky's Rugby Channel and was the 80th traditional between the two schools.
The clash is also one of the key matches in the final round of the premier-one championship, with second place on the table still up for grabs.
Wellington College are assured of the top spot going into the quarterfinals but only one point separates Silverstream (20 points), Scots College (20) and Town (19).
On Saturday, Scots meet fifth- placed St Bernard's, Wellington College take on Hutt International and Rongotai meet Aotea.
The advantages of finishing second are significant, bringing what should be an easier quarterfinal and the prospect of a home semifinal. It would also remove the possibility of a semifinal clash with Wellington College.
Silverstream would be guaranteed second spot if they could win with a bonus point today, as they beat Scots in round-robin play, but defeat would mean they could finish as low as fourth.
A win is worth four points, with a bonus point for four tries or losing by seven points or less.
"It's an important game for a number of reasons and there will be no lack of motivation, I can assure you," Silverstream coach Rob Ackerman said. "It's a big local derby and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Silverstream beat Town 20-12 in the Williment Cup competition early in the season and have shown steady improvement through the winter.
They made Wellington College work in the traditional match on June 6, before going down 24-13, and, in the three premier-one rounds since, have scored 111 points and conceded just seven.
Silverstream also illustrated their progress when just failing to beat St Bede's College, from Christchurch, late last month.
Knight acknowledged the extra edge a traditional fixture carried. "A traditional is a massive step up. The whole school is watching and everyone puts their body on the line.
"It's also a game we need to win."
St Pat's Town won the 2010 traditional but Silverstream have dominated the clash in recent times, recording 12 wins in a row before 2010, and winning again last year.
However, Town have also improved sharply after a slow start to the season, winning their last four premier-one games, and are back at full strength, after a series of early injuries.
The only health concern now is coach Brendan Reidy, who has been reduced to whispering his instructions after suffering from laryngitis.
Star fullback Tauasosi Tuimavave is fully fit again and the team has been boosted by the return of the 2011 skipper Luke Donaldson and front-row forward Aresmin Schaumkell, who are completing their level 3 NCEA year, after returning last month from an exchange programme in France.
Ground conditions are unlikely to be ideal this afternoon but neither Donaldson nor Schaumkell, who were based at Arras, in the north of France, will be complaining.
The temperature at Arras was often below freezing. "It did get as low as minus 15," Donaldson said.
"The usual test as to whether we played a game or not, was if a car key could go into the ground."
Schaumkell and Donaldson, who were away for nine months, attended Lycee Robespierre high school.
They played for the school team in an under-19 competition and also played sevens rugby for the Arras club, with both teams reaching the national finals.
The St Pat's pair, who lived in an apartment with six other rugby players, including two Kiwis, attended 10 hours of school a week, mainly English classes, and had up to 15 hours of rugby training, plus games.
"They play their rugby at a slower pace [in France] and I was huffing and puffing a bit after the first training run back here," Donaldson said. "They played their rugby a bit like league - they just run straight at you.
"But it was a great experience and improved aspects of my rugby, particularly my decision-making."
Schaumkell and Donaldson would also be capable of discussing tactics in French this afternoon.
"I'm not fluent but I can definitely hold a conversation [in French]," Donaldson said.
- The Dominion Post
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