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Both the Boys and Girls NZSS Water Polo trophies are winging their way to Auckland this evening after national title wins this afternoon to Sacred Heart College and St Cuthbert’s College respectively.
In contrasting finals, Sacred Hear overwhelmed Bay of Plenty’s Aquinas College 8-2 in the Boys final and St Cuthbert’s edged Auckland rivals Diocesan School for Girls 9-8 in the Girls decider that followed at Wellington’s Kilbirnie Pool.
In winning the national titles, both schools have won triple silverware in recent weeks, the North Island, Auckland and now National Championships.
For St Cuthbert’s, it was double relief on the tournament’s final day, after they had edged out Mount Maunganui College 9-7 in a penalty shootout in their morning’s semi-final. Auckland Dio had defeated Kristin School 3-1 in their semi-final.
In the bronze medal matches, Rangitoto College finished third in the Boys by beating St Kentigern Colege 7-5 and Mount Maunganui College defeated Kristin School to take third in the Girls competition.
Matt Dell (Sacred Heart) and Bernadette Doyle (St Cuthbert’s) were the tournament MVPs.
The Boys tournament team was: Bronson Larsen (Sacred Heart), Gabe Orchard (Aquinas), Rowan Brown (Rangitoto), Josef Schuler (Aquinas), Hamish Sullivan (Sacred Heart), Ben Fleming (Saint Kent’s).
The Girls tournament team was: Bridget Layburn (Westlake Girls’ High School), Shinae Carrington (Mount Maunganui), Julia Kayes (Mount Maunganui), Morgan McDowall (Auckland Dio), Tai Nimo (St Cuthbert’s) and Caitlin Mary Parker Allen (St Cuthbert’s).
Sacred Heart accounted for Aquinas College in the Boys Final after making a fast start and then creating too much defensive pressure throughout the contest.
Sacred Heart made an early statement, with first quarter goals to Patrick Zatko, Bronsen Larsen and Nick Hermans and they led 3-0 after the opening five minutes.
The long left arm of Hermans almost made it 4-0 on the quarter-time buzzer but his long-range effort was pushed just wide.
Needing to score first in the second quarter, Aquinas did so with Hamish Low passing to Kiahl Horan who was able to send the ball past the clutches of outstanding keeper Dell. However, Sacred Heart hit back immediately with a decisive goal to Larsen, advancing their lead to 4-1 at halftime.
Again, Aquinas scored after the break, Low pouncing on a defensive error in front of the goal and calmly sending a lob shot through to make it 4-2.
The bartender, Josh Retter, served up a goal in reply and Sacred Heart re-established their three-goal buffer at three-quarter time.
Sacred Heart then pulled away in the final five minute period, Louis Ferigo putting in a back hander to make it 6-2 and then defensive pressure leading to two more goals at the end to Nick Paterson and Harry Finnigan.
Meanwhile, the Girls final was a fourth quarter thriller after scores had been locked up at 7-7 at three-quarter time.
St Cuthbert’s started a frantic final quarter with a goal to MVP Bernadette Doyle, following an exclusion to Dio’s Maddy Gault, one of three in the match for Dio that were to ultimately prove costly. But Dio struck back with a goal to Izzy Avis after some nice deception play and it was all square at 8-8.
St Cuthbert’s Caitlin Mary Parker Allen combined with goal scorer Tai Nimo to put the winning shot in the back of the net with time counting down. With 15 seconds to play, animated Dio coach Angela Winstanley-Smith called a last-ditch time-out. It almost worked but Avis’s shot was blocked on fulltime and St Cuthbert’s could start celebrating.
Earlier, Dio had established a two-goal buffer early in the third quarter, Gault providing a good tip on to Morgan McDowall and then great defence by Alice Leonard and Eleanor Spillane creating a turnover and a goal to Avis.
There had been a flurry of scoring early, with both sides sending three goals each into the back of the net in the first quarter, which could have been more if not for a couple of great saves at either end of the pool. Defences tightened up in the second quarter and Dio took a 5-4 into halftime but couldn’t prevent a stronger finish by the team in green.
Sacred Heart College are one win away from completing an Auckland/North Island/National title water polo treble after defeating St. Kentigern College on penalties in the semi-finals at the National Secondary Schools Champions at Kilbirnie Pool in Wellington this afternoon.
Sacred Heart will face Aquinas College from Tauranga in the decider after Aquinas eliminated defending champions Rangitoto College.
For the second time in the last fortnight, Sacred Heart and St. Kent’s caused their supporters heart palpitations as they fought out a typically gripping struggle.
Josh Retter opened the scoring for Sacred Heart when goalie Matt Dell lobbed the ball three-quarters of the pool to locate Retter unmarked.
St. Kent’s however led for much of the match. Ben Fleming converted a holding penalty to make it 1-1 at the first break and Matt Stirling’s reverse shot in congestion gave St. Kent’s a 2-1 advantage midway through the second quarter – a lead they held for almost half the match.
With 37 seconds left Retter jostled a holding penalty and tied the scores, but Ben Simpson had a chance to win it for St. Kent’s, riffling the ball into the post.
All five shooters converted their penalties in the first round of the shootout, but cruelly Fleming sent a missile wide of the target with St. Kent’s sixth shot. That left Retter, aptly nicknamed ‘the bar tender,’ the chance to deliver the winning toast.
Aquinas College reversed an early deficit to defeat Rangitoto College 8-6. Rangitoto surged ahead 4-1 with Sam Groom scoring two impressive goals, but Aquinas pegged it back to 5-5 at halftime, before leaping ahead by three. Gabe Orchard scored two goals for Aquinas.
The girls semi-finals are tomorrow morning at Huia Pool in Lower Hutt and will also see three Auckland schools and a Bay of Plenty contender vying for a place in the afternoon’s final at Kilbirnie Pool.
This afternoon’s quarter-finals saw Pool A winner Saint Cuthbert’s College defeat Rangitoto College 5-4 and Pool B winner Auckland Diocesan beat Baradene College 5-2.
The other two quarter-finals resulted in Kristin School beating Westlake Girls’ High School 5-1 and Mount Maunganui College overcome Carmel College 4-2.
Tomorrow morning’s top four games will see Saint Cuthbert’s and Mount Maunganui College clash at 9.20am and Dio and Kristin School clash at 10.15am.