Saint Stephen's College were yet to concede a point in their APS campaign and this clash promised to be a closely fought affair. On offer was a third trophy for the season for the 1st XV. The Arnison-Rowe Shield was introduced in 2001. Since then Saint Stephens have just had the edge over Somerset, leading the score tally 8 to 7.
Saint Stephen's were also motivated after copping a 62-0 hiding at Wyangan in 2015; their first loss in the Arnison-Rowe Shield since 2009. They fielded a sizeable team and were keen to keep the contest close to take advantage of their physicality. They didn’t bank on a Somerset team who had faced opposition just as challenging when on tour in Canada. Somerset dominated the early exchanges and for once were on the right side of the penalty count. Constant pressure led to James Stoten diving over in the right hand corner. Josh Vuta wiped the conversion wide and Somerset struck the first blow to lead 5-0. The rest of the half was a see-saw battle with both teams defending well. Pushing passes seemed to be the order of the day and sustained pressure was often relieved and Saint Stephen's were let off the hook. Late in the half after putting together several phases and stretching the Saint Stephen's defence, Josh Vuta produced a deft little inside ball for Tighthead Prop, Lewis Pye to crash over. This time Vuta nailed the conversion and took the 1st XV to a handy 12-0 lead at the half.
The kick-off of the second half drew immediate reward with the team being awarded a penalty right out in front. Captain for the day, James Stoten, elected to shoot for goal and Vuta once again bisected the uprights and left Saint Stephen's needing at least three scores to win the match. The team seemed to relax immediately following this score and they let Saint Stephen's hit straight back to make it 15-7. More loose tackling and sloppy exits from the 1st XV’s own danger zone allowed the slippery Saint Stephen's fullback to score under the post. Suddenly the 1st XV went from having the game under control to now under unnecessary pressure. Thankfully, one player to hold their nerve was Inside Centre, Lewis Ioannou. An excellent defensive chase enabled Lewis to charge down the impending clearance kick. With no Saint Stephen's defenders in the back field, Lewis toed the ball ahead and just prior to the try line the ball took a wicked bounce and at full stretch he juggled it and regathered it to score the most unlikely of tries! Once again, Vuta added the extras and the 1st XV had a bit of breathing space at 22-14. Some better defence and a little bit more determination to put this game away was the focus for the final 10 minutes. The 1st XV held on for a memorable victory and ensuring themselves a spot in the APS Grand Final on 3 June. Loosehead Prop Luke Lee was named Man of the Match for his excellent scrummaging against his 140kg plus opponent.
The 1st XV have now achieved a rare feat. Winning the Old Firm Cup against Emmanuel College, regaining the Hickey-Fradgley Trophy against All Saints Anglican School and retaining the Arnison-Rowe Shield against Saint Stephen's College. The goal now shifts to winning the APS Premiership. Saint Stephen's play All Saints this Friday to decide who Somerset will meet in the final on 3 June.
Try Scorers: James Stoten, Lewis Pye, Lewis Ioannou
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Josh Vuta (1 penalty, 2 conversions)