St Pat's Silverstream win WelTec Premiership with tight final win over Wellington College
St Patrick's College, Silverstream have won their first WelTec Premiership title since 2012 with a come-from-behind win over Wellington College.
Stream kept Wellington scoreless in the second half as they turned an 11-7 halftime deficit into a 17-11 win at Porirua Park on Sunday afternoon.
Right-wing Todd Svenson scored the match-winning try with 16 minutes to go, before resolute Stream defence - aided by a strong wind at their backs - helped them see out the win.
Man-of-the-match Kienan Higgins was one of many players overcome with emotion after the final whistle as they were swamped by an ecstatic mob of their school-mates.
*Stream, WC into WelTec final
"I'm just lost for words. To actually do it, I'm speechless. We've been dreaming of this since year nine, it's crazy," Higgins said.
The first half set the tone for what was a tight and tense final. Stream's vaunted backline showed signs of nerves as they dropped a number of passes early on.
A pair of Joshua Morgan Ranui penalties had Wellington up 6-0, before Stream finally got something to click in the 17th minute.
Playing into the wind, they opted for a scrum from a penalty inside the Wellington 22 - as they did throughout a first half in which they dominated possession. Livewire winger Chris Aumua - the brother of New Zealand under-20s star Asafo Aumua - was put into space from the scrum set move, before showing some neat footwork to step the Wellington fullback and go over near the posts.
But Wellington hit right back, going down the other end three minutes later as their inspirational captain, No 8 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, crashed over with a pick-and-go.
Two key moments went against Wellington in the second half. First, Ranui was forced off with what appeared to be a concussion. Then, loose forward Mellenniumma-Gerrad Leota was sinbinned for a breakdown infringement in the 46th minute.
While he was off, Stream scored their two second-half tries.
The first saw Higgins beat a man on a scrum set piece, before putting in centre Albert Polu in the corner. That was Polu's 15th try of the season, but Wellington did a good job of keeping him quiet for most of the final.
Wellington put the kickoff out on the full when play resumed, which allowed Stream to continue their dominance at scrum time. This time, first-five and captain Harrison Boyle ghosted through the Wellington defence to almost score himself, before the ball was recycled to Svenson to carry three defenders across the line for the try.
It was a much-deserved win for Stream, who completed the WelTec Premiership undefeated.
Boyle described the final as "crazy", but said he always had faith they would get there in the end.
"I knew with the wind we would be able to lock them down in the 22 and try force some errors and play off that. I didn't really doubt us at any point."
He paid tribute to the work of Higgins and Polu outside him, while crediting the work of his forward pack.
"Our whole forward pack worked so hard because Coll have an amazing forward pack and they knew they needed to front today, and they did."
Stream now have a Hurricanes regional semifinal at home to Palmerston North Boys' High School next weekend, while Wellington have the unenviable task of travelling to Hawke's Bay to take on unbeaten Super 8 Champions Hastings Boys' High School.
AT A GLANCE
St Patrick's College, Silverstream 17 (Chris Aumua, Albert Polu, Todd Svenson tries; Riley Forbes con) Wellington College 11 (Naitoa Ah Kuoi try; Joshua Morgan Ranui 2 pen). HT: 7-11.