School bans opposition fans

The FDMC first XV celebrate after defeating NPBHS 24-10 today.
The FDMC first XV celebrate after defeating NPBHS 24-10 today.

Live scoring:

FDMC fullback Michael Blanks crosses the line first to give the visiting side a 5-0 lead. Try unconverted.

13 min: A Michael Blanks charge-down gives the fullback his second try in a matter of minutes. Try converted 12-0 to FDMC

15 min: NPBHS respond with a try in the corner. Unconverted. 12-5 to FDMC. She's all go at The Gully

18 mins: A penalty & the trusty boot of Eli Kneepkens stretches FDMC lead to 15-5.

HT: FDMC lead NPBHS 15-5.

41min: NPBHS Winger Isei Vuluma storms down the sideline & offloads to Sam Betteridge who scores. 15-10

50min: FDMC land a penalty and extend their lead 18-10.

60min: Another penalty to FDMC first five Eli Kneepkens makes it 21-10

75 mins: FDMC still lead 21-10

77min: Another penalty from Kneepkens takes it to 24-10.

FT: FDMC are the winners today with a 24-10 win over NPBHS at The Gully.

School bans opposition fans

A furore has erupted over a New Plymouth Boys' High School decision to ban hundreds of Francis Douglas Memorial College students from today's annual grudge match.

Principal Michael McMenamin announced the ban on Monday, saying there was not enough room at the school's Gully Ground for the students.

However this appears to be the first time a ban has been imposed on a first XV rugby match and FDMC has had a noticeable presence at recent games.

Recent matches have developed a highly-competitive edge as the boys from across town have been able to match and on several occasions beat Boys' High. The match has been an annual fixture since 1999.

Disappointment met the news at Francis Douglas after Mr McMenamin told acting principal Chris Moller not to bring his students to this year's match.

Mr Moller said despite a history of healthy rivalry, students from both schools had always been welcome to attend the game.

"Their principal phoned on Monday and said he wasn't confident with that arrangement anymore," he said.

Boys' High had room for 2000 people to watch the game and Mr McMenamin said the crowd will include 1250 students from his school, and 100 students from Francis Douglas, who will be playing other sports during the day.

Mr Moller said the students at the college were disappointed with the ban. A Facebook page had been set up by students to express their anger at the decision.

Last night the page had more than 700 likes and supporting comments had been posted from former students and members of the public, including former New Plymouth mayor Peter Tennent.

Mr McMenamin said despite the backlash he was not prepared to let more Francis Douglas students into the crowd.

"There is not enough space. We will have our boys here and our old boys," Mr McMenamin said.

"I am sure the students [from FDMC] can appreciate that in terms of crowd control it's not possible. We don't want the game to get too big."

Mr McMenamin said today's match would be flanked by security guards, but Francis Douglas first XV co-coach Steve Simpson said the guards were unnecessary.

"I don't understand that at all. We've never had security at a game, ever," he said.

He had been coaching the team for nine years and was shocked at the decision made by Boys' High to ban FDMC students.

"In my nine seasons we have never had a message to not bring supporting students."

Two years ago when Francis Douglas beat Boys' High on their own ground the match between the schools was broadcast on Sky TV. "Every student from each school was there, as well as all of their parents. Space wasn't an issue then. I don't see the difference now," Mr Simpson said.

Mr McMenamin said the two schools had a long-standing agreement that supporting students could not attend the matches.

The ban on Francis Douglas students was not due to any bad behaviour in the past, he said.

Mr Moller now wants the Taranaki Rugby Union to consider hosting the game in future so everyone could attend.

"The Boys' High principal has to make a decision that he's comfortable with, but our boys are disappointed. In the future it needs to be be on an independent ground, on the weekend."

Francis Douglas team captain Cameron Keech, 17, said the first XV were "gutted" that their friends would not be in the crowd, but they were taking the news in their stride. "It's really frustrating, but it has fired the boys up heaps and they just want to get out there and do it now."

Despite the backlash about his decision Mr McMenamin was looking forward to today's match.

"It's going to be a hard, fast and fair game. I invite everyone from the public to come and watch."

Taranaki Daily News