After-match strife hits wrong note

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014

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Two Taranaki principals have started an investigation into trouble on the terraces following Saturday's rugby curtain-raiser at Yarrow Stadium.

Security staff and police stepped in between Francis Douglas Memorial College and New Plymouth Boys' High School supporters after the schools' annual match.

The schoolboy teams had put on an entertaining match ahead of the Super Rugby Chiefs v Waratahs game. Trouble broke out after the final whistle when Francis Douglas supporters taunted their rivals after their 20-17 victory.

New Plymouth Boys' High School headmaster Michael McMenamin said he would be making inquiries tomorrow when the students returned to class.

Taranaki Daily News staff at the grounds said Francis Douglas supporters taunted the Boys' High team with chants that included references to rape.

"They were certainly inappropriate and I know the principal of Francis Douglas will be talking to his students about it," McMenamin said.

"The game itself was excellent, it was a hard game, but unfortunately sometimes people can get caught in the emotion."

Francis Douglas principal Martin Chamberlain agreed the chants were out of line and said he would speak to the full school tomorrow about appropriate ways to show school spirit.

However, a lot of the supporters were former students of each school and that made it hard to speak to everyone involved, he said.

Holding the event in a public place meant the school had less control over spectators. "At a public gathering we can't deploy staff to stand among the students.

"They are in a public place and they have paid for entry," he said. "We just can't exercise as much authority." He described the incident as "school spirit gone over the top" and said lessons had been taken from the outburst.

"We'll be able to educate the young men on what can happen when a crowd mentality takes over."

Last year's match also made headlines when Francis Douglas supporters were excluded from the game, which was held at the Boys' High gully. McMenamin said at the time having large numbers of students together was not good for crowd control.

Last year's match, which Francis Douglas won, was flanked by security guards. Yesterday, McMenamin said he was very strict in the control of the game last year and this latest incident vindicated his actions.

New Plymouth District Council venue manager Nelita Byrne said although one of the high school supporters tried to throw a punch, it it did not connect.

"They were mainly just chanting at each other," she said.

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"We felt the security staff and the police handled it well."

- Taranaki Daily News

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