A slow start to the Otahuhu v Liston First XV game was remedied by a number of stunning tries from Otahuhu’s forward pack to put the side up 18-8 by the final whistle at Eden Park.
The KFC Curtain Raisers kicked off at the earlier time of 2.50pm at Eden Park on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the vocal families and friends from arriving in force to cheer on their respective schools.
There was a lot riding on the game. Liston College, who finished top of the table in the 2015 1B competition, earned the right to challenge Otahuhu College for a 1A berth before the premier school boy competition kicks off next week.
Otahuhu coach Antony Crowley said his team viewed the game as a priority match.
“There was a lot riding on it for us,” said Crowley. “We want to be known as Otahuhu 1A, not Otahuhu 1A this year, 1B the next year.”
And the team stepped up, particularly the forward pack.
“Midway through the second half, we needed to get back to our basics and what was working for us in our forward pack,” he said. “We really nutted out that last 10 minutes and created a lot of space up front. The forwards won the game for us today.”
It was that space in the final 10 minutes that allowed Otahuhu to make some ground towards the try line, culminating in a 67-minute driving try from number eight Otunuku Pauta and sealing the win 18-8.
Liston struggled to respond to the pressure, earning one penalty goal early in the opening half and one try from centre Randy Ataongo at 54 minutes.
Head coach Daniel Morath was philosophical about the game and the team’s build-up to Eden Park.
“The preseason we set up for them is the toughest the school has probably ever been through to try get them ready for this game, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done today.
“They were under the pump right from the start and they managed to guts it out right until the 70th minute,” he said. “We’ll work again and try get back to this situation again next year.”
Final score: 18-8 to Otahuhu College