Southern Cross Campus have been given an extra life and a chance to advance to the College Sport Auckland Rugby League grand final in two weeks, after taking down fourth-placed Mt Albert 28-10 in their semi-final (Game B) yesterday afternoon.
Wet conditions left both sides struggling with ball control, but it didn’t take long for the home side to gain momentum and make their way down field.
Southern Cross standoff Eric Poiri Wichman kicked high to the right with centre Paea Fotu receiving the ball to put first points on the board. Halfback Samuel Nat converted for an early 6-0 lead.
The south Auckland school scored another in quick concession. Again, off the boot of Wichman left-centre Samuela Fisiitalia was quick on his feet grounding the ball in goal to collect their second.
Ten minutes into the first half and Southern Cross were up 10-0 with 15 minutes to go.
Finally holding onto the ball, Mt Albert scored a last minute try to reduce the deficit to 10-4, but the conversion went out wide leaving the score 10-4 to Southern Cross at the break.
There was no stopping the home side who – in front of a large and very vocal crowd at Southern Cross in Mangere – were straight out the gates in the second stanza adding another 12 points to their score board to lead 22-4.
With ten minutes remaining Mt Albert looked destined for defeat, but a powerful and determined Lewis Afeaki stormed through the pack presenting an opportunity for standoff Anotnio Wulf to cross over the line. Halfback Emmanual Kelly converted to get up 10-22.
It looked like the game was over, but in the final seconds of the match, Southern Cross hit back with one last try to claim a 28-10 victory at full-time.
Southern Cross coach Rod Ratu said his side were better prepared for this week’s game following their defeat against St Paul’s last Wednesday.
“After the long break – school holidays and what have you – it was hard for them to find their rhythm… last week’s loss was a bit of a wake-up call,” he said.
“Today’s performance is what’s expected of them.”
“They’ve played consistently throughout the season and there’s no reason we can’t make this year’s grand final.”
Southern Cross 28 (Paea Fotu, Samuela Fisiitalia, Spencer Poimatagi, Samuela Lauhingoa, Nitoa Kairau tries; Samuel Nat x4 goals) Mt Albert Grammar 10 (Venuka Mausala, Anotnio Wulf tries; Emmanuel Kelly x1 goal).
Meanwhile in the Game of the Round (1 v 2) Kelston Boys’ have advanced through to this year’s premier championship grand final, edging past defending champions St Paul’s College 10-4.
Southern Cross’s win coupled with St Paul’s loss will see them go head-to-head in next week’s major final.
“It’s always a tough game when we come up against Kelston,” said St Paul’s captain Daetyn Tanuvasa.
“We’ve got another physical battle against Southern Cross next week… all we can do is keep our heads up and look at what we need to bring to next week’s game.”
Kelston Boys 10 (Joseph Onyeke, Anderson Mafi tries; Konrao Tu’ua x1 goal) St Paul’s 4 (Matthew Palu x1 try).
The St Paul’s v Southern Cross major final will be streamed live next Wednesday August 9 on www.aucklandleague.co.nz from 4pm.
In other games, Aorere took down Papatoetoe 20-4 to secure the fifth position in the premier championship final placings.
Wesley College will play in this year’s premier plate grand final following their win over Manurewa 16-10 yesterday. Manurewa will play Western Springs next Wednesday 9 August to see who will advance to play Wesley the week following.