Marist Albion’s road to the title

Marist Albion has emerged as a Metro premier powerhouse, featuring in the last four finals. They claimed their second title in three years on Sunday with a 31-26 win over High School Old Boys. Jaime Cunningham reports.

Ian Robinson.
Ian Robinson.
Physical trainings, tough conversations and team cohesion – that’s what Marist Albion head coach Ian Robinson says paved the way to another title.

Marist cemented their dominance in the final against HSOB at Rugby Park, usurping  Lincoln University’s reign over the competition and proving they are now the team to beat.

But Robinson had a unique problem earlier this season – Marist were winning games by large margins but not performing to the standard they could.

“After the Old Boys round robin game which we won 46-28, it was frustrating as we felt we could’ve been scoring more points than we were,” he said.

“We were brave enough to want to push our team further.”

This included a number of “tough” conversations with players, which Robinson felt the coaching staff could do because they knew each other so well.

Their trainings during the season were physical, with all but one on the field.

Robinson said the team now has a “special” cohesion.

“We’ve had continuity in our coaching team and looking at the team list, probably nine or 10 players who have played in four finals now.

“I can’t overstate how important team cohesion is in the game.”

On Sunday, the team’s connections were on full display.

Although HSOB were patient in possession, Marist’s slick backline stood out.

Despite a few ball-handling errors, Robinson believed the win was down to their experienced players stepping up in the big moments.

But when the score was locked at 21-21 with 20 minutes to go, Robinson admits he had trouble staying calm: “All you can do is breathe – and it’s hard.”

A try under the posts to flanker Joe Taylor in the 64th-minute saw Marist pick up momentum. This is the moment Robinson says “ultimately won us the game”.

Shun Miyake’s converted penalty in the 79th-minute put the title out of HSOB’s reach, but Tom Anderson was able to dot down in the last play of the match to narrow Marist’s winning margin.

HSOB captain Alex Grogan said he was proud of his team’s “hell of a season” after many wrote them off.

“We’ll come back better next year,” he said.

After going down to Sydenham in the final last year, Marist captain Elliot Smith said he knew how HSOB were feeling after the match.

“You’ve been on an awesome run,” he told them.

“It’s been a very tight competition – and anyone from one to nine could’ve taken it.

“But to my boys – hell of a shift. We really ground it out and swung momentum to us there at the end.”

Marist’s celebrations may continue for the next few weeks, but Robinson is already eyeing next year.

“We don’t want to push it too soon, but we want to make it five (finals) in a row.”

•Marist Albion 31 (Elliot Smith, Isaac Hutchinson, Hamish Finnie, Joe Taylor tries; Shun Miyake 4 con, 1 pen) def High School Old Boys 26 (Freddie Gibson, Harry Kirk, Tom Anderson tries; George Coull 1 con, 3 pen)