Napier Boys' High School 1st XV rugby captain Morgan Poi was lamenting a poor second half after Saturday's semifinal exit at the National Top Four tournament in Rotorua.
"We started well, I think, with the wind in the first half. We got a few points but in the second half it turned to custard ... we definitely knew 11 points wouldn't be enough," Poi said after Napier's 30-16 loss to Otago Boys' High School.
"Watching previous games of Otago, we've sort of noticed they start slow. So it was important to get points first but we really didn't get enough in the first half. But I'm definitely proud of the boys and their effort," he added.
Napier had a strong first spell, scoring two penalties from the boot of centre Trinity Spooner and a try to second five-eighth Kalin Paewai.
Having the advantage of a stiff northerly, Napier looked to play a territorial match through the educated right boot of first five-eighth Caleb Makene.
His kicking was backed up by a strong forward display led by captain Morgan Poi at prop and his flankers Luke McKenna and Michael Buckley. The trio were a constant menace to the Otago side, who appeared a little rattled from the aggression shown by Napier.
Otago struggled to put phases together in the first spell and were out muscled at the breakdown by a determined Napier pack. With an 11-0 lead Napier had the opportunity to be up by another three points seconds before the halftime whistle but turned down a kickable penalty from 30 metres out in front of the posts.
Otago captain Josh Renton said he was confident his side could turn the deficit around after the break.
"They beat us up in the first half and that was something we needed to work on and I think we did, in the second half. We were always confident and that wind was worth a lot of points and obviously we showed that and we just needed to hold on to the ball."
Otago were the first to score after the break through the boot of first-five Sam Ellis, who kicked with 100 per cent accuracy for a tally of 15 points.
But it was Napier who would score the first try of the second spell, when left winger Shae Tucker carried two would-be tacklers over the line to extend the lead to 16-3.
However, the momentum began to turn thanks to the hard work of lock Troy Callander and blindside flanker Josh Dickson who combined well to set up and score Otago's first of three tries.
Otago Boys will play Auckland's St Kentigen College in this weekend's Auckland-hosted final. St Kentigen beat Hamilton Boys' High School 29-13 in Saturday's other semifinal at Rotorua Boys' High School.
It was the seventh time in 12 years Napier Boys' High School had played in a Top Four semifinal and co-coaches Russell Hewitt and Del Whyte will be back at the helm next year in an attempt to improve on Saturday's finish.
Scorers: Otago Boys' High School 30 (Josh Dickson, Ben Miller, Aleki Morris, tries; Sam Ellis 3 cons, 3 pens), Napier Boys' High School 16 (Kalin Paewai, Shae Tucker, tries; Trinity Spooner 2 pens) Halftime 0-11.
The Hawke's Bay under-16s continued their build-up to next month's Wellington-hosted Hurricanes tournament with a 67-40 win against their Manawatu counterparts in Waipukurau on Saturday.
"It was a rugged, high scoring game," Bay manager Mark Devon said. "We went to sleep defensively early in the second half but there was still 70 minutes of good rugby from us."
Hawke's Bay No8 Hugh Renton, blindside flanker Hadley Hay-Horton and lock Regan Leahy impressed in the winning pack. The midfield combination of second five-eighth Jonah Lowe and centre Jordan Pineaha were the best of the host backs.