Hockey: Under 15 boys are national champions

The Wanganui Under 15 boys hockey team with their National Championship medals in Invercargill on Saturday 7 October 2017.

They have finally done it. After years of runnerup and top four placings, the Wanganui Under 15 Boys side has claimed their National Championship tournament after a dominant week in Invercargill.

Finishing pool play with two wins and a scoreless draw, Wanganui won all three of their playoff games by 2-0 scorelines against North Harbour B, Auckland B and Thames Valley respectively - going through all six matches without conceeding a goal.

"Extraordinary. At the end of the day, each game we improved upon," said coach Andrew Spence, who had known heartbreak so many times at nationals.

"The momentum we had just started to build, so when we got to the final, I felt pretty confident we were going to win it."

Wanganui kept their cool in Saturday's gold medal game with Thames Valley, getting two penalty corner opportunities and converting both of them, while using their advantage out wide. 

 
Wanganui players converge after their successful penalty corner goal in the final with Thames Valley.
Wanganui players converge after their successful penalty corner goal in the final with Thames Valley.

 

"[Thames Valley] had to hit the ball up the middle so we intercepted a lot," said Spence.

It was a hallmark of their defensive patterns all tournament, with the coach tipping his hat to midfielders Nathan Cohen (WHS student) and Jack Norman.

"Our defence was pretty strong and we pushed our defenders into their half. Anything that went down either side or flank we picked off."

At his third U15 nationals, captain and MVP Connor Hoskin (WHS student) finished with seven goals, having learned with bitter experience from previous campaigns.

"He talked about leading from the front. I think he knew what was required to win the championship," said Spence.

Joel Clark got four goals. 

 

The Under 15 girls were not as lucky in Timaru, losing their quarterfinal with Auckland B 2-0.

However, they recovered to finish fifth overall by beating Tauranga B 7-1 and Poverty Bay 3-2 in extra time, getting down to nine players each in the shootout after it was 2-2 at fulltime.

MVP and captain Rebecca Baker finished with a stunning 13 goals from the seven tournament games, including the matchwinner in the final.

"She worked really well, as usual," said coach Jan Dixon.

"I guess it was a little disappointing to lose one game all week and come fifth."

Isabel Brabyn put herself at the post to pick up five goals.

By Jared Smith
Wanganui Chronicle 9/10/17