Australia may have had the upper hand on New Zealand teams in the Super 15 so far this year, but as far as schoolboy rugby goes, New Zealand still rules the roost.
Brutal defence and a strong set-piece was key as Otago Boys High School smothered the New South Wales en route to a 28-7 win in Dunedin. The home side ran in four tries in what was a dominant all-around display.
The game was won in the first half, where Otago Boys rushed out to a 13-0 lead early before adding two more tries to take the score to 23-0 at the break. It was a half in which Otago Boys took a fairly conservative approach, looking to kick in behind the defence and apply pressure.
They did this very well, finding acres of space to kick into and chasing well to pin their opponents in their own 22. This, combined with an ability to be clinical and turn this pressure into points, saw that the game was effectively over after 35 minutes.
In contrast, the New South Wales side offered very little. They dropped too much ball, missed too many tackles, kicked too poorly and gave away too many penalties in their own half to cause any real problems. Although some credit must go to the tenacious Otago Boys defence, which ensured New South Wales had very little to work with.
The second half saw the game loosen up as both sides made changes, and with the game in the bag, Otago Boys took off many of its best players. New South Wales did a better job of retaining possession and were more disciplined, but still the Otago Boys defence only folded once.
It was clear where the game was won, as Otago Boys dominated the contact situations, making some huge tackles and in general getting the better of the breakdowns. The scrum was dominant too, while the lineout was safe and constantly disrupted the New South Wales' attack.
The backs looked slick as well, kicking for space and looking dangerous on the counter.
The best for New South Wales were the loose forwards, who ran strongly and were effective at the breakdown considering they were in the less-dominant forward pack.
For a high school to beat a state representative team from Australia is impressive to say the least, especially given the manner in which it was done. It bodes well for the coming season, where Otago Boys will look to repeat the success of 2012, which saw them play in the national final.
They will enter the Highlanders 1st XV Competition as hot favourites, and if this performance was anything to go by, will feature on the national scene once more.
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