Timaru Boys' High School upset Christ's College to reach their first UC Championship final
An impressive Timaru Boys' High School First XV are through to their first Crusaders Schools Championship final after upsetting Christ's College 24-10.
TBHS will face defending champions Christchurch Boys' High School, on Saturday in Christchurch, after their come from behind 40-29 win over Nelson College.
Christchurch Boys' High School easily have the best record in the championship, having won the title on nine of the 16 occasions, but TBHS will revel in their underdog status and have a decent shot at the their first title.
At Christ's College, TBHS's outstanding forward pack had the edge at crucial times which led to the four tries to one victory, and were also buoyed by plenty of vocal sideline support.
TBHS coach Gavin Miller was delighted for his team.
"We have never been in a final so it is a really big thing for the boys. They played very well."
Miller credited the set pieces and being very good over the ball for the win.
"We had the belief to stay in our systems and then free up space, which paid off.
"I also thought we defended very well early in the second half. To come to Christ's and only concede one try shows the effort that went in."
Miller, along with assistants Mark Cvitanich and Regan Joyce, have certainly got the boys believing in themselves, having earlier lost to Christ's 28-15 in the round robin.
Christ's College coach Reuben Thorne said TBHS deserved the win.
"They were very good at the tackle and more accurate than us. Their defensive pressure also forced us into mistakes."
It is the second season in a row the former All Black's side has exited at the semi-final stage.
For TBHS captain Cullen Grace was superb leading from the front, turning over ball and putting himself in the right spots.
Playing on the blind side he also scored a crucial second half try, which keeps his impressive average of one a game up.
Hooker Melvin Pauni had brilliant first half, carrying the ball very well and brushing would-br tacklers aside.
Pauni was well supported by Maka Mafileo around the fringes and the big No.8 got TBHS's first try.
Props Thomas Edwards and Shane Fikken came into their own in the second half and were both excellent ball in hand, while also keeping Christ's scrum under enormous pressure.
Open side Finlay Joyce was another to impress in the second half, testing the Christ's defence and was strong over the ball.
Locks Cameron Lyon and Sione Mata'sia also played their part, but TBHS will be seating on a late injury to Lyon, who is a key member of the engine room.
Caleb McNoe was very impressive at halfback, putting his opposite number number under real pressure and catching him in possession three times in the first half.
Second five Brad Cvitanich again carried the ball very well, forcing the Christ's defence to commit numbers, but also chose the right opportunities to spin the ball wide.
Fullback Hayden McNulty and left wing Tevita Eukaliti also showed some excellent touches on attack and scored two very good tries..
McNulty also pulled off a couple of crucial defensive tackles when Christ's looked threatening while right wing Hamish Schmack marked his opposite Kaveni Balenacagi out of the game.
The big Balenacagi was listed in the programme at No.8 put immediately took up a spot on left wing, but experiment didn't work.
Centre Monty Nixon also had a strong game in defence and showed a couple of nice touches on attack.
Ryan Greenslade proved a handy pivot at first five, choosing the right time to attack or go back towards his strong pack.
For Christ's open side Hunter Wilson was in everything while centre Curtis Weeks tried to spark the back line.
The loss of their outstanding captain Isaiah Punivai to knee injury in the final round robin game did however hurt Christ's attack.
TBHS however dominated territory and possession in the first half and finally got on the scoreboard midway through the half when Malifeo dived over from a ruck, with McNulty adding the conversion.
Eukaliti made in 12-0 when he was the beneficiary of a great pass from Joyce and beat the defence to the corner.
Christ's then scored after a rare visit inside the TBHS's 22, with lock Jason Embling driving over, and Sam Miyake adding the extras.
The host's then roared into TBHS early in the second half and a Miyake penalty made in 12-10 and TBHS looked in some trouble.
TBHS however regrouped and Grace stretched out in a tackle to score after TBHS had swept down the field.
Four minutes later Eukaliti grabbed his double with a good finish after another great team play and TBHS sealed their final spot.
They continued to dominate the final 10 minutes and had three other try scoring opportunities but things did not quite stick.