Slow Starters, Hugh Finishers – 1997 Wesley College 1st XV

Winning the New Zealand Top 4 championship was the goal of the 1997 Wesley 1st XV.  The pre season showed little evidence they would be capable of achieving such a feat, winning a modest five of ten games. However the team improved and by the time the season proper started and the Top 4 was reached records were tumbling.


The Team

Captain: Koli Latailakepa

Head Coach: Amanki Lelei Palavi

Players: J. Paea, H. Liu, L. Tautasi, T. Henry, M. Price, W. Gray, L. Vocevoce, S. Lolohea, P. Tongatoutai, P. Tongi, S. Puleanga, L. Tuitupou, J. Hope, A. Palusa, N. Kairua, H. Tu’uhoko, G. Stowers, H. Lolohea, R. Walters, J. Beckham, A. Douglas, S. Moimoi, L. Holani, S. Mapusua, D. Habraken, J. Nauarabota, S. Kepa, J. Winkerei, D. Mansell


The Numbers

Played: 32

Won: 26

Lost: 6

Points For: 1034

Points Against: 265

Average Score: 32-8



The Results

  • Marist Under 19, 20-8
  • Onehunga High School, 17-10
  • Kelston Boys High School, 3-21
  • Otahuhu College, 13-18
  • Aorere College, 8-10
  • Avondale College, 40-10
  • Paptoetoe High School, 40-0
  • Otahuhu College, 10-18
  • De La Salle College, 8-22
  • Pukekohe High School, 66-0
  • Tuakau College, 72-0
  • Te Aute College, Won By Default
  • Waiuku College, 93-0
  • James Cook High School, 27-0
  • St Stephens College, 40-15
  • Church College, 13-12
  • Manurewa High School, Won By Default
  • Papakura High School, 74-0
  • Waiuku College, Won By Default
  • Tuakau College, 81-13
  • Papakura High School, 67-5
  • Wesley 2nd XV, 36-3
  • St Stephens College, 46-8
  • Rotorua Boys High School, 0-11
  • Western Heights High School, 20-11
  • Kelston Boys High School, 15-8
  • Westlake Boys High School, 66-3
  • Otahuhu College, 26-20
  • Rongotai College, 31-11
  • Palmerston North Boys High School, 41-3
  • Old Boys XV, 41-15



  • Nine players were selected for the Counties Manukau Secondary Schools, two for the Under 16 side. Seilala Mapusau was selected for the Northern Regions A side. Sione Kepu was selected for the New Zealand Schools that toured Australia.
  • Kept five opponents scoreless in the Counties championship and posted scores of 50 plus six times. Three opponents defaulted such was the fear of facing Wesley.

  • During the Counties competition many players were trailed from the Under 15′s to gain 1st XV experience.
  • The forward pack was experienced with Lester and Koli returning for a third year.
  • Seilala Mapusua was described as the anchor in the backline, organising the defense, calling the moves and displaying a real tenacious ability to read the game. He later played for Otago, the Highlanders and Samoa.
  • Hale Tu’uhoko, later known as T Pole (Below), was described as an impact player and competitor in the lineout.

  • Wesley was the only side to beat Otahuhu College who won the 1A Auckland competition, ending Kelston Boys five year tenure with the trophy, Otahuhu played 25 other games and had a draw and 24 wins.
  • At the Top 4, Wesley beat Rongotai College by 20 in the semi finals. The Wellington Champions led by 11-5 at halftime.
  • In the Top 4 final, Wesley beat Palmerston North Boys High School by a record 41-3. Palmerston North won 26 of 31 games and was coached by future Heineken Cup winner Joe Schmidt. The year before Palmerston won 22 of 29 games and reached the Top 4 final so Wesley’s win by such a large margin was a huge feat!
  • Had a strong season in sevens winning the Counties Manukau Sevens and finishing runners up at the Condor Sevens, losing to Western Heights High School, 20-29 in the final. In all the side played 11 games for 10 wins.


Acknowledgments: Chris Bean, Ben Hancock.

2 Responses to Slow Starters, Hugh Finishers – 1997 Wesley College 1st XV

  1. George said on April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Love the info the stats the background to teams, player & games. In terms of sheer size Wesley have fielded some of the biggist & most expolsive players you’ll at secondary school level. Love the info may it long continue.

    • Luke said on August 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      It was a team that will never be forgotten by each players. A team that you would say Silent but Violent in a rugby manner. As George said may long be continued.

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