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.