Sideline Rewind: 2018 Super 8 Final Thriller
The Super 8 formed in 1997, incorporating eight central North Island high schools: Hamilton Boys’ High School, Tauranga Boys’ College, Rotorua Boys’ High School, Napier Boys’ High School, Gisborne Boys’ High School, Palmerston North Boys’ High School and New Plymouth Boys’ High School.
The schools began playing rugby and cricket within the Super 8 framework in 1998 and now 12 codes are represented, as well as including a cultural festival and professional development programmes for management staff and curriculum teachers.
The Super 8 1st XV competition ranks among the most prestigious and highest-quality in New Zealand rugby. Rotorua Boys’ High School were the inaugural winners in 1998, while Hamilton Boys’ High School are the most successful 1st XV outfit in Super 8’s history with 12 titles in 22 seasons. Hamilton Boys’ have failed to collect the Super 8 spoils (or a share thereof) just twice since 2006.
Underlining the competition’s strength, 11 schools from the Super 8 competition have gone on be crowned New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby champions since 1998.
SidelineApp streamed LIVE and On Demand coverage of the Super 8 1st XV for the first time in 2018 - and it proved to be among the most memorable seasons in the competition's history, culminating in one of the great finals.
The 2017 title had been shared by 2016 champs Hastings Boys' High School and Hamilton Boys' High School after the heavyweights drew 12-all in the decider. Hamilton Boys' went through the 2018 round-robin undefeated - including a 26-0 rout of Hastings Boys', who racked up five wins from their seven games.
But another Hawke's Bay school thwarted Hastings Boys' bid for a third straight final appearance. Napier Boys' High School had not finished in the top half of the Super 8 table since 2013, but they surged to second - and a place in the final - in 2018 by crafting a 6-1 record.
An emphatic 27-7 victory in the derby against Hastings Boys' proved the pivotal result for NBHS, whose six wins all came by margins of 14 points or more.
But clinching the Super 8 crown for the first time since 2003 shaped as a daunting task after going down to Hamilton Boys' 29-15 during the round-robin.
The underdog visitors fell behind 5-0 early after Hamilton Boys' No.8 scored from a scrum pushover in the fifth minute. But Napier Boys' dominated the remainder of the first half, with centre Leo Thompson, No.8 Luke Russell and prop Patrick Teddy dotting down for a shock 17-5 lead at the break.
Hamilton Boys' clawed back to level after just 10 minutes of the second stanza, however, thanks to centre Josh Calvert's try and a 60-metre runaway effort from flying winger Leweni Mocekaca. A 56th-minute penalty goal from Demante Murray edged the hosts in front 20-17.
But Napier Boys' showed tremendous character to stay in the contest and set the scene for a fairytale upset when flanker Sam Henderson powered over in the corner with 10 minutes remaining.
Hamilton Boys' championship qualities ultimately shone through in the dying stages, patiently wearing plucky Napier Boys' down and earning a penalty. Murray coolly slotted the last-minute goal for a nerve-shredding 23-22 victory and back-to-back Super 8 titles.
"We knew we had to hold on to the ball. We stuck to our structures and weathered a tough storm," ecstatic Hamilton Boys' captain Tom Martin said afterwards.
Napier Boys' Leo Thompson was named player of the match but lamented his school's lost opportunity: "We slacked off in the second half after starting off well. We've still got a lot to work on and there's still the Top Four to aim for."
NBHS did indeed bounce back from the heartbreaking loss, downing Hastings Boys' again to win the Hurricanes Final. They thrashed Christchurch BHS in the NZ 1st XV Top 4 semis before being edged out in another final, 31-28 by Auckland's St Peter's College.
Hamilton Boys' easily won the Chiefs Final against Wesley College but were pipped 8-7 in the NZ 1st XV Top 4 semis by St Peter's. They capped a superb 2018 campaign by defeating Christchurch 43-25 in the third-place playoff.
New Zealand’s alert level two has revived the likelihood of a delayed 2020 Super 8 1st XV competition going ahead. SidelineApp hope to be on hand to provide LIVE and On Demand coverage of every game – a vital link between the Super 8 teams and their families and fans with limits on crowd numbers potentially extending throughout the season.
Stand by for upcoming announcements regarding the 2020 Super 8 1st XV season.
To find out how SidelineApp can help as grassroots sport gears up to return in the coming months, contact SidelineApp founder Luke Thompson at email@example.com or 0275260807, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org