For the fifth time in nine years Sacred Heart College are the National Secondary Schools First XI football champions after defeating Auckland Grammar School 2-1 at Bluewater Stadium, Napier this afternoon.
The spectacle defied the wet and dreary conditions with Sacred Heart rallying from behind to prevail in a gripping extra time climax.
The winning goal, a penalty, was scored by Riwai Stanton with the last kick in the first-half of extra time.
Stanton latched onto a high ball, controlled on the chest, and was brought down in the box while attempting to shoot.
The spot kick was calmly executed, driven firmly into the bottom right corner of the net, despite a correct prediction of its direction by the Grammar keeper.
Grammar will be haunted by a missed penalty of their own. Shortly after halftime, and while leading 1-0, Josh Stephan was fouled when a Sacred played jumped onto his back. Stephan shot with conviction, but would be denied by Declan Viljoen.
Both sides created chances from the outset. Brooklyn Baker fired inches wide for Sacred Heart and Thomas Drillen forced the best out of Viljoen with a robust header.
It would take something special to prize open the Sacred Heart defense. Harrison Freeman had the ball stripped from his grasp by Alex Smith who maneuvered into space and unleashed a 25-meter curling shot into the top right corner; Grammar led 1-0 at the main interval.
Samuel Pointon leveled proceedings in the 60th minute when his low, swirling, strike proved elusive.
Campbell Strong lived up to his name for Sacred, tightly marking the dangerous Drillen.
Grammar was able to hold the ball for long periods, but never looked that likely to equalize. Eshaan Arora was perhaps their best; relentless in the challenge and always looking to push forward.
In the playoff for third, St Peter’s College ensured it would be an all Auckland top three as they subdued King’s High School, Dunedin 2-0. Tauranga Boys' College defeated Mount Albert Grammar School 3-1 in the 5th v 6th match.
The golden boot award, for leading scorer in the tourney, was won by Raphael Le’ai from Scots College, Wellington. Le’a netted nine goals in seven games. Scots finished in ninth place.
It was an East Auckland Marist schools one-two, with Baradene College winning the Premier Girls Lotto tournament in Christchurch.
Baradene beat Hamilton's Hillcrest High School 3-0 in the final.
Epsom Girls' Grammar School beat Mount Albert Grammar School 1-0 in the 3rd v 4th match and Westlake Girls' High School defeated Napier Girls' High School 2-1 in the 5th v 6th fixture.
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