On Wednesday 30th September the Caterham took on Wairoa College from the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand in a historic game for the school. It has been a considerable time since Caterham has hosted such a touring fixture and this may have been the first of its sort.
Wairoa arrived with a fierce reputation, Hawkes Bay area champions and having beaten Cistercian College in Ireland and Burnham Grammar as well as pushing recent national cup finalists RGS Newcastle very close in their most recent touring games.
On a glorious Indian Summer’s day the scene was set for an epic encounter. The whole school community joined a multitude of parent and friends supporter for both schools as Home Field was engulfed by a sea of people. Caterham took to the pitch, looking resplendent in their Argentina tour kits, which were getting one last competitive wear to mark the occasion. Next came Wairoa who gathered near their own posts before marching towards the half way line in formation, chanting as they went.
Next came the haka. It was only at this point that you realised how much noise the crowd had been making for the silence that fell over the crowd as Wairoa prepared to lay down their traditional Maori challenge. It was an incredible spectacle both intense and mesmerising and the respect shown by the Caterham crowd was exemplary. The home side firmly stood their ground and accepted the challenge that had been laid down. Now it was time for the game, could it live up to such an incredible build up?
The short answer is yes. In perfect playing conditions both sides showed great intent to play attacking rugby and there were some great passages of play, as well as quite a few monstrous hits, for the crowds to cheer. With the game evenly poised it was Caterham who eventually broke the deadlock, a superb break from centre Marcus Hodgkinson saw him release Che Ochugboju down the right wing, he showed exceptional pace to beat the full back and finish an excellent Caterham move.
A penalty soon followed and Caterham seemed be building a lead. However Wairoa did not become Hawkes Bay champions without showing some resilience and they fought back to gain territory and the next ten minutes was played solidly in the Caterham half. Wairoa’s patience was rewarded and they crossed the white wash to leave the game well balanced at 8-7 to Caterham.
It would remain this way for much of the rest of the half. Then in a glorious flurry of both forward and backs play Caterham scored two quick fire tries just before the break. The first from a driving line-out (a ploy which worked well all game) and the second a slick backs move that saw centre Josh Coakes cross for the try. With both tries converted this left the score at 22-7 at the break.
The start of the second half was not as intense as the first and the tough programme both sides have been through in the past few weeks seemed to take its toll as the pace and accuracy of skills both dropped. However, the game was brilliantly brought back to life following a superb break from Marcus Hodgkinson which saw him score from the half-way line and Caterham stretch their lead to a seemingly unassailable 29-7.
This score seemed to rally Wairoa and the game restarted with renewed energy. On the back of this they scored two excellently taken tries, both with moves that saw breathtaking offloads and impressive footwork and speed to beat defenders. These two tries took the game to 29-17 and it seemed that if Wairoa scored again quickly they might snatch victory. However Caterham reasserted themselves into the game and were unlucky not to score another try as they finished the game well to win 29-17.
Following the game the true spirit of rugby was evident with the teams having pictures taken under the posts together and both sets of coaches and players mixing well in a brilliant post match function which saw the Wairoa boys give a rousing rendition of two traditional Maori songs. The boys then departed with their host families to enjoy the unique billeting experience.
Wairoa now travel to Wales to take on powerhouse of Welsh schoolboy rugby Neath Port Talbot College 1st XV on Saturday. Meanwhile Caterham face Christ’s Hospital in their second Daily Mail Trophy match of the season on Saturday.
Full Time: Caterham 29-17 Wairoa College