Rugby League

v Southern Cross Campus

2 August, at Southern Cross

MAGS loses 10-28

We travelled to Southern Cross full of expectation that we could keep our season alive and at half time it looked like we would do just that. But a second half meltdown, for which we only had ourselves to blame, saw Southern Cross proceed to the semi-final at our expense. This was a long way from the standard we have set this year and a disappointing finish to our involvement in the Auckland schools competition.

We started slowly, but completed our first couple of sets and held out Southern Cross with good defence. Then on the last play of a very average set, and from a poor pass out of dummy half, their halfback launched an inch perfect high kick across field to the right and their centre leapt to reclaim the ball and run in unopposed. They kicked the extra two and we had to start again. From the kick-off they came all the way down field and looked to be setting up the same cross kick from left to right. But instead the half put in a grubber on the left and their left centre dived on the ball to score. The only consolation was they missed the extras.

So we were 10 minutes into the game and 10 points behind. We owned the next 15 minutes and had chances to score on both edges but only took one of them when Uenuku went over on the right after excellent work from Lewis to put him into space. We couldn’t convert but at half time we were only down 6-10 and had all the momentum. The plan was to play at their end in the drier part of the field and use our strength on the flanks. But we didn’t follow the plan.

In the second half we simply couldn’t hold on to the ball long enough to put them under pressure. They had the best of the first exchanges and scored to the right of the posts and added the conversion. On our next possession Antonio put in a great kick and we looked to have a good chase but a couple of missed tackles conceded the advantage back to the hosts. They soon scored again near the posts and so could turn 4 into 6.

We did regain some composure in attack and Antonio kicked and regathered on the right and Jeremiah knocked over the conversion to bring the scores to 10-22 We needed to score from the restart but instead they kicked long, the ball hit the cross bar and bounced over the dead ball line and we had a line drop out to give them the ball back. They showed no mercy and scored again just before the hooter.

Perhaps it would have felt different if we had lost a close and exciting game? Southern Cross have no superstars and they certainly didn’t have to do anything spectacular to beat us. We know that we were way below our best today.

Next stop Nationals. There is too much talent in this team for us to be disappointed for long. Our aim is for a Top 4 spot at the National Tournament. We will train hard for that in the next month. Well done to the players and coaches for the work you have done so far.

v Papatoetoe High School

26 July, at MAGS

MAGS wins 34-10

At the end of the round robin phase of the season, the First XIII has achieved the first of its targets for the season by finishing in the top four of the competition. We now face a knock-out game against Southern Cross, most likely at their ground.

Our qualification for the knockout stage was achieved with a convincing win over Papatoetoe High School. The victory was not without its frustrations: we let Papatoetoe score first and at times our ill-discipline was all that kept them in the game. But at the end of the first half and beginning of the second, when we had established a lead, we played some of our best league of the season. We proved that league is a pretty straightforward game built on direct running and quick play of the ball that give fast, skilful players the chance to run at retreating defenders. 

Papatoetoe opened the scoring after poor defence, and the concession of a soft penalty allowed them to dive over to the right of the posts. When we regathered possession, we attacked on the right edge first and then Jeremiah, who was a threat throughout the game, slipped a pass to Al-Jermaine to score on the left. We soon scored again after the forwards, with Tuiasi prominent, set up the attack for Lewis to score under the posts.

Another kick-off led to another try after Jeremiah made a big break down the left side. A few plays later and Lewis was in for his second. From the next kick off we played the perfect set with Tuiasi then Nelson running hard up the middle of the field, then Milan threatening on the right before Bonowai scored on the left. The score was 22-6 at half time and Papatoetoe looked tired.

We kept up the momentum in the second half when Emmanuel ran 50 metres from an interception. We moved the ball right and then left again and Al-Jermaine grabbed his second from close range. David had been adding the goals and the lead was out to 28-6.

We then had a dreadful 10 minutes when we gave away about five thousand penalties and, even though Papatoetoe were down to twelve men, conceded a try on our left edge. There wasn’t too much celebration from the opposition but they deserved the more respectable score line the try provided. Thankfully, we had the last word when Elijah scored on the right and Jeremiah, yes him again, added the extra two.

 The changing sheds rocked to the sound of the T3 victory song. Look out Southern Cross!

v St Paul’s College

5 July, at Grey Lynn Park

MAGS loses 4-22

This will be a short report at the end of a long term. 

The roller coaster ride that is MAGS rugby league had a low after last week’s high. We didn’t play badly and in fact we drew the second half 4-4. But the damage had been done in the first half by St Paul’s powerful forward pack. St Paul’s didn’t play any flashy stuff, they just gave it to their props and second rowers who consistently made metres after the contact to put our defence on the back foot. From there, they powered over from close to our line. 

We had our chances in the first half but a lack of patience saw us waste at least two good ones when we lost the ball close to the line on tackle two and, after winning the ball back, were not deep enough on attack to put Bonowai away in the corner. In between those attacks, St Paul’s scored when their dummy half dived over the line from a metre and their prop and then loose forward crashed over on our left edge. 

Our forward pack were giving away a great deal of size and power but they all stood up really well. Jacob, Al Jermaine, Elijah were brilliant in the back row and Tuiasi, Nelson, Ruben and Milo all put in honest shifts. David and Julius alternated at dummy half and Kayal was a constant threat and a defensive rock at left centre. Indeed, it was Kayal who scored our only try with the last play of the game. That made the score line more respectable and a better reflection of the run of play.

We will rest and regroup over the break and be ready to resume our campaign in two week’s time. Thanks to all our supporters for attending today’s game in the rain.

v Aorere College

28 June, 2017 at Aorere

MAGS wins 22-6

We finally started a game the way we said we would, and as a result we were 18 points up after 15 minutes and the game was as good as won. True, a combination of injuries and lack of concentration meant we didn’t add much to the score in the remaining 35 minutes of the game, but we did create at least two more clear chances even after we had secured the result.

Our win was built on executing our game plan, and that meant our forward pack getting a roll on and then using the strike runners in our back line to score the tries. Led by standout performances from our props Tuiasi and Antoni, second rowers Al-Jermaine and Lincoln and Lewis at last man, that is exactly what we did. There was a stalemate for the first couple of sets but then, from a scrum, we used both props and both second rows up the middle and Lewis finished off the move with try just left of the posts.

From the restart, Aorere kicked the ball out on the full and we marched back up the field on runs from Lewis, Antoni, and Al-Jermaine. Then Jeremiah took control and put Uenuku through a gap on the right side. David again added the extra points and we were 12-0 up. Another restart and another great set. Tuiasi got it started, Lincoln carried it on and Jeremiah was on hand with a great kick and regather to score on the right edge again.

It wasn’t all going through Jeremiah’s hands though and Kayal, Bonowai and Uenuku all made great runs down the left wing. Any one of those might have seen us extend the lead but as the half time approached we made some changes, probably relaxed a little bit and started to give Aorere too much time and space around the ruck. Penalties (remember them!) also hurt us in terms of territory but we didn’t concede any points either side of half time even when we were under pressure.

After some good goal-line defence we worked our way onto attack again. Jeremiah’s wonderful cross field bomb almost resulted in a try for Kayal but the ball just eluded his grasp. Soon we were attacking again and after hitting their line several times on the right we moved the ball to the wide left and Bonowai scored in the corner. 

We had no interchanges left as we approached the last 10 minutes of the game and a couple of key players picked up minor injuries but couldn’t be replaced. Eventually Aorere got some reward for their efforts when their number  9 muscled his way over from dummy half.

So, MAGS were awarded the Brotherhood Shield for the first time in its short history and the changing sheds rang to the sound of our victory song. St Paul’s are our next opponents. Onward!

v Southern Cross Campus

21 June, 2017, at MAGS

MAGS loses 18-24

Photo essay here

We contrived to lose this game in spite of scoring four tries and having opportunity to score more. Our defence in the middle of the field lacked urgency, especially in the first half, and when we had to chase the game we hoped for individual moments of brilliance rather than relying on our attacking systems.

We scored first when Bonowai, making a welcome return from injury, scored on the left wing. But Southern Cross recovered possession from the kick-off and scored on our left from the resulting set of six. We snatched momentum back as Tuiasi and then Javvier made strong runs up the middle and David Otukolo dived over from dummy half. David added the extra two and we were ahead. But not for long as Southern Cross again scored on our right. Southern Cross scored again before half time as our defensive effort fell apart. We went to oranges 12-10 down thanks to the fact they missed their kicks. 

Our defence did not improve at the beginning of the second half and we conceded two more tries, one on the right straight from a scrum and one under the posts when their stand-off dummied and stepped off his right foot. We were now 24-10 down and in danger of unravelling.

To the credit of the team, we rallied and led by some strong runs from Lewis, Charlie, and Tuiasi we created tries for Milan on the right wing and Bonowai on the left. However, the kicks from wide out proved too difficult and we couldn’t close the gap before the hooter.

Today’s result proved there are no easy games in this competition and we need to be at our best to progress into the knockout rounds. Aorere await next week. The boys will no doubt be looking to lift their performance for that game.

v Kelston Boys High School

14 June, 2017, at Kelston

MAGS loses 4-16

After the high of last week’s victory against St Paul’s, we came back down to earth with defeat against our western rivals Kelston Boys. There was some added spice to the fixture due to our close encounters in past seasons and the familiarity the players from each side have with the other. Many are club mates on Saturday and opponents on Wednesday. The collisions in the game reflected the rivalry, but the players and the crowd always maintained a sporting atmosphere.

For once we made a great start. Our forward pack dominated the tackle on both attack and defence with Tuiasi a standout amongst many good performers. Lincoln Hakaraia was making his debut and he almost scored after taking what appeared to be a flat ball from Antonio. But the referee, who was well positioned, judged the pass was forward and we were called back for the scrum. We regained possession with our aggressive defence and Jeremiah and Elijah went close in the left corner. 

We couldn’t force a repeat set and then our old enemy, indiscipline, made an unwelcome return. We defended really strongly only to give away a penalty on the fourth tackle. Kelston then attacked and scored on our right edge. After being hot on attack for the first 15 minutes of the game we found ourselves 0-4 down. 

We attacked again and were again repelled and when Kelston got the ball they spent some time in our 20m area. A poor pass to the right was turned into a gem as their fullback picked up the bouncing ball and cut back on the angle to score next to the posts. We had 80% of possession and territory and we were 0-10 down!

It got worse from the restart. Their prop burst through a weak tackle and their fullback was again on hand to score under the posts. 0-16 at half time. 

To their credit the MAGS boys fought back well and we won the second half, which was a pretty intense affair, 4-0. Jeremiah started to organise our left edge attack and Kayal, Elijah, Al-Jermaine and Hunter all ran strongly to take some pressure off the forwards and stretch the opposition defence. When Lewis managed to cut inside the defence and score on the left there were still 15 minutes to go and we had a chance. We continued to press but a promising attack on the right ended with a knock on under pressure and with that went our hopes of a dramatic comeback.

Kelston remain unbeaten but they are beatable. MAGS need to turn territory and possession into points. That will come as we have more training and game time. The semi-finals still beckon for the MAGS boys. 

v St Paul’s College

7 June, 2017, at MAGS

MAGS wins 10-8

Just before kick-off, the MAGS First XIII manager said to the coach something like, “If we can have a good first set and get to our kick, then a good defensive set and keep them pinned back, it will give us confidence and take some of the swagger out of St Paul’s.” So, St Paul’s kicked off, we failed to gather the kick, they rumbled up the middle with their big men and three tackles later scored on our right edge. Sigh! 

And for the next 10 minutes, St Paul’s owned the game and were camped in our half. We gave away a couple of penalties to add to the pressure and it looked like turning into a long afternoon in front of an expectant home crowd. But the coaches have been working long and hard with this team and we showed more starch on our goal line than we had in previous encounters. Our forward pack really stood up and Uenuku Malesala, Kayal Iro and David Fale (on debut!) gained ascendancy on our right edge. The pressure told and Lewis Afeaki (also on debut) muscled over just to the right of the posts. David added the extra 2 and we went to half time leading 6-4. 

We applied pressure across the field at the beginning of the second half and defended our middle well. But indiscipline cost us again and penalties conceded first field position and then points as St Paul’s kicked two goals to pull ahead 8-6. However, the fact they took shots at goal showed they weren’t confident about breaking down our defence and our lighter faster pack of forwards was tiring out their bigger men. We attacked on the left and then put in a great kick to the right that David Fale almost claimed for a try. The next best result was a line drop out and from the subsequent possession we again attacked down the left and Elijah Ieriko touched down in the corner for the go-ahead score. We couldn’t add the extras but with only a couple of minutes on the clock all we had to do was keep our heads and see out the time. The experience and skill of Javvier Pitovao was invaluable here and he was well supported by other senior players as we held on until the hooter.

This was a great way to enjoy our return to our home ground and to reward our supporters. The MAGS old boys were out in force and they certainly went home happy – and well fed thanks to Meke Unasa and his sausage-sizzling team. Onwards to the championship rounds.

v Avondale College

29 May, 2017, at Avondale College

MAGS loses 18-22

We started terribly, then composed ourselves and got back into the game, then played terribly, then composed ourselves and, well, you get the picture. This was a game we could have won, but Avondale were well worth their victory. The lead changed hands a couple of times and Avondale only clinched the game with the last play of the game.

We put ourselves under pressure from the kick off by conceding a penalty and then knocking-on in front of the posts. But we withstood that pressure and got out of our half with a good kick. But Avondale came right back and a miss pass to their right wing stretched our defence. We scrambled but they had numbers on the roght and soon scored.

From the kick off their prop knocked on and from the scrum first Hunter and then Tuiasi ran at their line to get us on the front foot. Quick ball saw Uenuku cross the line on the right. When they kicked off to us, Uenuku again made a great break and quick hands saw Aaron over the line on the left. But the referee judged he had not grounded the ball and Avondale were given a reprieve.

Further penalties by MAGS gave even more momentum to the boys in black. A quick tap from a penalty gave them field position and a well weighted kick was touched down by an Avondale player. Then they scored a soft one from dummy half and as the half time hooter sounded they had stretched out to a 16-6 lead,

The first part of the second half was all MAGS and mostly Uenuku Malesala. He went just about the length of the field on his own beating tackler after tackler to score under the posts. Emmanuel added the goal and a few plays later was lining up for another shot after another Uenuku break saw Milan Brown force his way over on the right edge. The score was 16 -16 with about 10 minutes to play.

Avondale now looked like the team under pressure and when we attacked again they conceded a penalty. We kicked the goal. 18-16 with seven minutes left. We needed to make some ground, get to our kick and pressure the return. Easy, right? A mistake on tackle two gave them possession on our 30m line. Avondale went to their big men who had played well all day. They pushed us back and a penalty gave them more territory. Again, their props hit our defensive line and eventually the pressure told and they scored on their left edge. To rub it in, they nailed a difficult kick as well.

The physio was busy and we played the second half with only one player on the interchange bench. There were some good performances today but we will need more composure if we are to beat Southern Cross on Wednesday.

___________________________________________

v Westlake Boys High School

10 May, 2017, at Fowlds Park

MAGS wins 32-6

Photo essay here

It feels like the start of the season has been a long time coming, but the extended period we have spent on the training field looks like it has been worth it. Our first competition game ended in a convincing victory for the First XIII. It’s true that we will face stronger opposition than this Westlake side who are clearly rebuilding after a strong year in 2016, but there were many moments today to suggest that this year’s MAGS team can be successful.

We began with a good attack down the right edge through Kayal and Uenuku. Those two players continued in the same vein throughout the game and were a constant threat with strong running on good angles and a great passing game. But we didn’t score from that first attack and Westlake came back following a break from the back of their scrum. Good defence saw MAGS repel that attack and then our props got a roll on with Nelson and Charlie finding their fronts and getting up for quick play the balls. We finished the set with a good kick and got the ball back from the drop out. We moved left then Aaron cut back on a great line to centre field and Tuiasi crashed over to score under the posts. David converted and we were deservedly ahead.

From the kick-off we went straight back up the field on the back of a great run by Antoni who broke through the defensive line on the left and then showed great pace as he headed infield. Westlake couldn’t scramble in defence and Uenuku touched down on the right. David got the extra two points and it looked like we were cruising. But our worst period of the game followed as a series of penalties gifted Westlake field position and momentum. They scored on our left edge where Aaron and Milan were hopelessly outnumbered. The damage had been done by our indiscipline and at half time the coaches spoke about putting that right, being patient, and being first to score in the second half.

We responded in style. Nathan hit the line hard with his first carry of the season. Kayal took it on for another 20 metres. Julius took some easy metres from a quick play the ball; Javvier kept the pace on the ball for another carry and all this allowed Uenuku to touch down on the right almost at a jog. That was the turning point in the game and from there we overpowered Westlake. Bonowai scored on the right, Uenuku claimed a third and Charlie finished off the scoring (no doubt encouraged by his mum who was supporter of the day!) just to the left of the posts. Emmanuel was able to convert one of those tries and David another to bring the final score to 32 – 6 in MAGS’ favour.

There is a long way to go in the season but this was a great way to begin. Thanks to our opponents for a good game, our supporters, and for the Albertians, led by Meke Unasa, for the fundraising sausage sizzle.

29 May, 2017, at Avondale College

MAGS loses 18-22

We started terribly, then composed ourselves and got back into the game, then played terribly, then composed ourselves and, well, you get the picture. This was a game we could have won, but Avondale were well worth their victory. The lead changed hands a couple of times and Avondale only clinched the game with the last play of the game.

We put ourselves under pressure from the kick off by conceding a penalty and then knocking-on in front of the posts. But we withstood that pressure and got out of our half with a good kick. But Avondale came right back and a miss pass to their right wing stretched our defence. We scrambled but they had numbers on the roght and soon scored.

From the kick off their prop knocked on and from the scrum first Hunter and then Tuiasi ran at their line to get us on the front foot. Quick ball saw Uenuku cross the line on the right. When they kicked off to us, Uenuku again made a great break and quick hands saw Aaron over the line on the left. But the referee judged he had not grounded the ball and Avondale were given a reprieve.

Further penalties by MAGS gave even more momentum to the boys in black. A quick tap from a penalty gave them field position and a well weighted kick was touched down by an Avondale player. Then they scored a soft one from dummy half and as the half time hooter sounded they had stretched out to a 16-6 lead,

The first part of the second half was all MAGS and mostly Uenuku Malesala. He went just about the length of the field on his own beating tackler after tackler to score under the posts. Emmanuel added the goal and a few plays later was lining up for another shot after another Uenuku break saw Milan Brown force his way over on the right edge. The score was 16 -16 with about 10 minutes to play.

Avondale now looked like the team under pressure and when we attacked again they conceded a penalty. We kicked the goal. 18-16 with seven minutes left. We needed to make some ground, get to our kick and pressure the return. Easy, right? A mistake on tackle two gave them possession on our 30m line. Avondale went to their big men who had played well all day. They pushed us back and a penalty gave them more territory. Again, their props hit our defensive line and eventually the pressure told and they scored on their left edge. To rub it in, they nailed a difficult kick as well.

The physio was busy and we played the second half with only one player on the interchange bench. There were some good performances today but we will need more composure if we are to beat Southern Cross on Wednesday.