Clean sweep for West Otago under-18s

There was a bit of spring in the step out West Otago way this week.

The West Otago secondary school team swept all before it this season in winning the under-18 competition recently.

In a gutsy performance, it toppled John McGlashan College Second  XV for a 34-20 win in the series final in Tapanui and maintained its unbeaten record for the season.

Co-coach Graeme Edgar said there was a "big buzz" in the district about the boys’ efforts.

"It’s been pretty special here for the past few days and there’re a lot of happy people about.

"We have had great support from the community, club committee and chairman.

"All co-coach Noel Heffernan and I had to do was turn up and coach; a very special group of people organised everything else.

"They just got on and did it, making it easy to focus on the games," Edgar said.

Their team was made up of  pupils from Blue Mountain College in Tapanui and Lawrence Area School, and most have been playing together for more than three years. The players train at Tapanui twice a week, with the Lawrence players coming by mini van for every training.

They won all 12 competition matches plus one against a visiting Australian school.

Despite the schools being 54km apart, the players are continuing a tradition that started  in the late 1990s when local rugby clubs merged to allow their young players the best chance to grow and develop in the game.

"It’s a joy to coach,"  Edgar said.

"We know we only have them for a certain amount of time. I think there are 12 who won’t be back next year, but we both wanted to help to prepare them for the future."

Active sponsors had helped and there was also an under-16 team, which had performed well in its grade. The under-18 side had come back in the final after McGlashan took the lead.

- John Cosgrove

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