Top-class school rugby
IN arguably the finest schoolboy rugby union match ever seen in Coffs Harbour, New Zealand's North Palmerston Boys School overcame a gallant The King's School from Sydney at Rugby Park on Tuesday night.
Palmerston North took the first XV clash between two of the world's best rugby schools 22-14, but not before absorbing plenty of pressure from the King's boys.
The match, which was the culmination of a four-day training camp at Pacific Bay, left The King's School rugby union coaching co-ordinator Steven James confident the Sydney school was ready for a big GPS season.
"The match was of a very high standard wasn't it, especially considering both sides had a very hard four days at training before the match," said James, a former Wallaby flyhalf.
"I was very impressed with the match, it was the first hit-out of the season for King's and only Palmerston North's second or third."
The match was divided into three 20-minute periods to allow coaches to test players in different positions.
The New Zealanders led 5-0 at the first break, but it could easily have been more after they dominated territory and possession.
But, as possession evened out in periods two and three, TKS hit back strongly.
King's grabbed a 7-5 lead late in the second period when fullback Nick Batger, brother of ACT Brumbies outside back Ben Batger, sliced through to create a try for replacement flyhalf Henry Hudson.
But the New Zealanders rose for the third period, skipping out to a 17-7 lead before late tries to both sides.
"We came back in the second and third (periods) when possession went back towards equal," James said.
"In the end, I think the difference was a few class players in the Palmerston North side.
"A couple of their boys had a lot of polish about them.
"Palmerston North are in the top eight schools in New Zealand, so to match them was very pleasing, it was a real contest until they scored in the last minute to go to 22-14."
James said both schools' time at Pacific Bay's Camp Wallaby was invaluable.
"It was a huge positive," he enthused.
"I would say the camp went better than anticipated."
The match was controlled by international referee Stuart Dickinson.
"Stuart made the match, he kept the game flowing and there were very few infringements at the breakdown," James said.
Earlier, Coffs Rugby Under-19s battled hard against TKS seconds before going down 15-5.
The Sydney lads were in front 15-0 after 10 minutes before Coffs settled into a rhythm and won the second period (5-0) ahead of a scoreless final period.
Best players for Coffs included Nathan Smith, Duncan Chubb, Chris Jones, Sean Rayner and Matt Wallace.