When Nelson College tackled Sacred Heart College in pool play at the National Secondary Schools football tournament it wasn't a typically tropical Nelson day.
Co-Captain Matt Tod-Smith describes the conditions.
"It was horrible, windy and rainy and that really suited Sacred Heart," he says.
Nelson was beaten 3-0, but coach Davor Tavich opted to rest some key players as Nelson had already guaranteed its spot in the top eight.
In the quarter finals Nelson defeated St. Kentigern College 3-1 and then foiled perennial powerhouse Mount Albert Grammar School 2-0 in the semi-finals. What adjustments were made from the Sacred Heart game to match it with the 'big' Auckland schools?
"We were much smaller than the Auckland schools so we decided to keep the ball along the ground and play a fast, possession game, try and move them around," Tod-Smith explains.
"The Auckland Schools' were better than us in the air and tired to beat us there. When the grounds dried up we were able to play our game more effectively."
In the final Nelson earned a re-match with Sacred Heart.
Max Winterton fired the hometown favourites in front after just 28 minutes, finding himself on the end of a perfect through-ball from Atkin Kaua. In the second-half Tod-Smith doubled the lead.
"It's definitely one of the highlights of my life to score a goal in the National Final. Max did all the work running through midfield, but I am happy to take the glory," Tod-Smith laughs.
Despite a late goal from the prolific scoring Dylan Bull, Nelson held onto win 2-1. The hometown support was a big factor in the teams' success.
"It was huge," Tod-Smith admits.
"There was a huge crowd at the semi-final and an even bigger one at the final. The local newspaper has covered the tournament and we had a special school assembly last Monday to celebrate."
Co Captaincy with Max Winterton has worked a treat to.
"Max is more outspoken than me. He does the toss and most of the team talks, but I contribute to. Things are pretty even. We share things and have a good relationship."
Coach Tavich has proven to be a great mentor. The Level 3 advanced coach guided the Nelson Marlborough Falcons to a National Youth league title in 2014 and achieved a seventh place finish with Nelson College at last year's Nationals.
Despite the success Nelson didn't have a single boy selected for the New Zealand Under-17 squad.
Tod-Smith says although disappointed he hopes the result will see the selection net cast wider in 2016.
Ironically New Zealand coach Danny Hay was in charge of Sacred Heart. He was frank about his team's performance in the Nelson Mail.
"They deserved it today...The boys are extremely disappointed. We came here to win it and we didn't do that so we have failed in what we wanted to do...We were not up to our usual standards today. It wouldn't have been justice if we had stolen another goal. We just weren't really at the races today."
Nelson College was back at the races on Saturday. They beat the Falcons in the local knockout cup final to complete the local Leauge and Cup double.
Tod-Smith has another year at school. He hopes to attain a scholarship to an American University, but says, "you never know what can happen."
Nelson College Nationals Results
Final: Sacred Heart College, 2-1
Semi-Final: Mount Albert Grammar School, 2-0
Quarter Final: St. Kentigern College, 3-1
Pool Play: Sacred Heart College, 0-3
Pool Play: Hutt International Boys' School, 2-0
Pool Play: New Plymouth Boys' High School, 3-0
Shirley Boys' High School - 1990
Prior to Nelson College, Shirley Boys' High School in 1990 was the only South Island school to win the National title. Shirley started their season with a 5-1 win over Riccarton High School, the site of their National success.
The side was captained by Nathan Wood while Glen Mitchell, Thearoth Thou, Stephen Jack, Andrew Griffiths and Wood all made the tournament team. The results of the team were:
· King's High School, 4-0
· Christchurch Boys' High School, 2-0
· De La Salle College, 1-0
· Otago Boys' High School, 2-2 (Won on Penalties)
· Palmerston North Boys' High School, 2-2 (Won on Penalties, 7-6)
· Lynfield College (Auckland), 2-0 (Robert Smith, Shane Roberts goals)
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