Footballers defeat nationally ranked opponents
While the aim was always to be competitive, the team entered into the tournament with a clear understanding of the challenge that lay in front of them. Whittled down from 160 teams, all 32 teams had gone through a rigorous qualification process and proven themselves successfully within their regions. To taste any success at this national tournament would be a fantastic achievement.
St Paul’s was placed in an extremely tough pool, with Hutt International (current Wellington champions), Mt Albert Grammar (a powerhouse within NZ football) and Cashmere College (second in the Christchurch competition).
Game 1 vs Hutt International
The weather was atrocious! Gale force winds, rain and freezing temperatures made this a game of willpower and resolve as opposed to skill and finesse. Despite conceding a goal early, St Paul’s out-muscled their more fancied opponents, winning the 50/50 challenges and gradually took control of the game. Jansen Cao levelled the score late in the first half, and after a surging run from George Ott, David Hancock put away the match winning goal with ten minutes in the game to go. Final result: a 2-1 win to St Paul’s.
Game 2 vs Mt Albert Grammar School (MAGS)
Playing on Tiger Turf, the aftermath of the torrential rain was no longer a concern. St Paul’s went into this game as massive underdogs, but this seemed to be all the motivation the team needed. Callum Donlon scored a fantastic goal from a free kick only four minutes into the game. Then, the team captain, Jasom Khatkar scored a second one minute out from the half time break. MAGS dominated possession in the second half, but never looked like scoring. MAGS did find the back of the net with only three minutes left on the clock. Final result: a 2-1 win to St Paul’s. (It should be noted that MAGS went on to finish second in the tournament.)
Game 3 vs Cashmere College
With qualification for the Top 16 already secured, the boys went into the final pool game with no pressure. The team started well with David Hancock scoring in the 7th minute. Somewhat against the run of play, Cashmere equalised just before half time. However, the second half was all Cashmere, motivated by the potential of qualifying Top 16, they pushed hard, and scored a further three times. Final score: 1-4 loss for St Paul’s.
Top 16 vs Sacred Heart College (Auckland)
Fate placed us against Sacred Heart, who were coached by Collegian and former 1st XI coach, Michael Built. Sacred Heart were a quality team, controlling the bulk of the position. However, St Paul’s stayed disciplined in their approach and worked extremely hard both on and off the ball. Sacred Heart scored late in the first half to take the lead. They then scored again with only five minutes left in the game. Final result: 0-2 loss for St Paul’s. (Sacred Herat went on to win the tournament.)
Fatigue and injuries were now becoming a major factor. St Paul’s game plan was based on a high energy, counteract style of play. Key injuries had a detrimental effect. While the boys always played with passion and purpose, it was difficult for them to gain any consistency and flow to their play. Losses to St Andrews 0-5; Nelson College 1-5 and King’s High School 1-2 saw the team finish in 16th place. Overall a fantastic achievement.
Thanks needs to go out to coach Mr Sam Wilkinson, fill-in coach in Sam’s absence, Mr Simon Tyndell and team manager, Mr Ainsley Robson, who coordinated the logistical arrangements so that the boys could enjoy this experience in Christchurch.