“They're a strong, experienced side with strength at both ends. They are dogged defenders which allows us little time on the ball, while also being swift on the counter.”
It took a long time but National Secondary Schools football champions Hamilton Boys’ High School finally conquered the considerable challenge posed by Tauranga Boys’ College.
Three games in the last week between the fierce rivals ended with Hamilton claiming two narrow victories and a sixth Super 8 title.
Hamilton captain Logan Wisnewski is full of respect for the Titans.
“They're a strong side with strength at both ends. They’re dogged defenders which allows us little time on the ball, while also being swift on the counter.”
Last Wednesday a Scott Ellerington header ensured Tauranga dethroned Hamilton as the Waikato/Bay of Plenty champions.
As expected both sides easily won their opening two matches at the Super 8 tournament with Hamilton thrashing Rotorua Boys’ High School 5-0 and Gisborne Boys’ High School 6-2.
Grouped together in Pool B, the top qualifiers both decided to rest key players ahead of the finals, but Wisnewski insists the fixture wasn't a phony war.
“We won 2-1. It started kinda slow as both sides were cautious, but when things opened up there was some intense football. Wisnewski said.
Casey Sharplin and Daniel Ngungambili were the source of Hamilton’s goals.
In 2017, Napier Boys’ High School upset Hamilton on penalties in the decider of the Super 8. There would be no repeat 12 months later.
“Napier was a grudge match. We haven't forgotten what happened last year and we played really well beating them 2-0. They were a good side, but we were better on the day,” Wisnewski acclaims.
Hamilton’s goals were scored by Harry Stocker and Levi Clark, the former netting his 50th goal for the First XI.
It would be Wisnewski who would open Hamilton’s account in the final from the penalty spot, but Tauranga in their first climax since 2015 and seeking the prize for the first time since 2007 proved tough to foil.
“It was a really intense game. They stretched us on the edges and gave us little time on the ball. We tried to stick to our systems, but it wasn't always easy,” Wisnewski reveals.
Tauranga wing Alexander Elliott was especially menacing and a goal and an assist propelled Tauranga 2-1 ahead.
“I thought we needed fresh legs, but our coaches didn't panic,” Wisnewski concedes.
With 12 minutes remaining Hamilton levelled when striker Max Ericksen finished from 12 yards after a break by Levi Clark.
Clark would be in the action again a short time later. Wisnewski captures the drama.
“Levi darted down the left side and approached the goal. I'm not sure if he intended to shoot or cross, but the ball curled over the keeper and into the net, Wiseneski says.
The Super 8 is the last major schools tournament before the Nationals in September.
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