College want 28th title next year
The message champions College Old Boys surely delivered to the other nine Manawatu clubs after Saturday's final was, "catch us if you can".
No one really got close in the Centennial Shield round, perhaps aside from Kia Toa (33-27). The 21-10 win in the Hankins Shield final over Kia Toa was so comprehensive it barely had anyone's hearts racing.
Barring veterans, prop Jeremy McKenzie and loose forward Sonny Waqatairewa, COB have a redoubtable core like Karl Bryson, Brad Truesdale, Willie Harris and Matenga Baker, most of whom have at least two Hankins Shield winners medals, and young lads. The bulk of them will be back next year with ever-present coach John Cruden for what might be the club's 28th championship title.
COB won 17 out of 18 games this season and downed Kia Toa on all three occasions. Kia Toa's 37-15 win over Varsity last year was equally decisive, but this time COB were too efficient, as they have been so often down the years.
It might not have been a scintillating final for the non-aligned spectators, but from when first five Otere Black trotted over from a scrum in the 28th minute, it was almost stress-free for COB brethren too.
Black's goal kicking was just as crucial, and yet the only one he missed was a conversion from in front. COB put the handcuffs on Kia Toa, as almost everyone knew they would and they had done to Old Boys-Marist in the semifinal, were too clinical and blotted out the free-running Kia Toa backline which was missing the injured Nathan Tudreu.
Kias did front up in the scrums which was why it was ironic that when they had one of COB's scrums in retreat, COB scored a try from it, virtually the coup de grace. Second five Brad Truesdale made the midfield bust, wing Willie Paia'aua juggled, somehow held it and galloped away from halfway for a second try four minutes after the first. Kias won enough ball, but didn't get continuity as COB pounced at the breakdown as they have done all year, turning over rucks and mauls to the tune of 11-3.
With 31 penalties in the game, it was not a spectacle. Kia Toa's backs were the supposed threat and Jason Emery was with his flicks. But Kias seldom went wide because Tevita Taufu'i lugged the ball up all game straight into the jaws of the COB tacklers, the reason he has not been picked for the Turbos, and hit the dirt. It took Kia Toa 36 minutes to threaten the COB line and 75-long minutes for speedster Newton Tudreu to get an overlap and score a try set up by Emery. That came when McKenzie was in the bin.
This game felt over from a long way out. Kias had barely crossed halfway in the first half and when the second spell opened, COB set up camp in Kia Toa's half while tacking into the crisp south-easterly. COB almost added tries in the 49th and 52nd minutes, taking quick taps.
There was a big breakout by Emery soon after but, as usual, COB got back and turned the ball over.
Heroes for COB were loose forwards Brice Henderson and Waqatairewa, centre-cum-forager Matenga Baker and front-rowers Cadwallader and Willie Harris, but team-work is this side's secret.
Kia Toa coach Fusi Feaunati said "maybe" about returning for a fifth season. He could boast two semifinals, a win and now a runnersup.
He acknowledged his men had needed to be more physical up front, missed first-up tackles and COB beat them at the breakdown.
College OB 21 (Otere Black, Willie Paia'aua, tries; Black 3 pen, con) Kia Toa 10 (Newton Tudreu try; Jade Te Rure pen, con), HT 18-3.
Stats: Lineouts won, 13-all, Kia 6-4. Lineouts lost: COB 3 Kias 1. Scrums: COB 16 Kias 12, HT 12-3. Pen's-free kicks: COB 18 Kias 13, HT 8-5. Kicks in play: COB 15 Kias 13, HT 8-5. Rucks-mauls won: COB 65 Kias 38, HT 12-20. Rucks and mauls turnovers: COB 11 Kias 3, HT 5-0. Clean breaks: Kias 3 COB 2. Knock-ons: COB 11 Kias 4, HT 2-all.