1st XI Footballers win Super Eight Tournament

HBHS 1st XI won the Super Eight Football shield for the sixth time in their history today, after a come from behind 3-2 win against rivals Tauranga Boys' College in Hamilton. It was the third time the two teams had met in the last seven days, after clashes in the school exchange last week and after meeting in the final game of pool play on Tuesday. Tauranga Boys' won the exchange 1-0, whilst HBHS got their revenge in the group stages of Super Eight with a 2:1 win.

Hamilton Boys' hosted the tournament for the first time since 2009, and whilst rain on Monday meant some games had to be moved from Gower Park to Jansen, the finals day was able to be played at Gower, with the impressive No 1 pitch providing a fitting venue for the elite tournament.

HBHS went into the final with a 100% win record, and were slight favourites to take out the title. Wins against Rotorua Boys' (5-0) and Gisborne Boys (6-2) on Monday meant that the tie against Tauranga on Tuesday morning would decide who topped the group. Goals from Casey Sharplin and Daniel Ngungambili sealed the win and a semi final meeting with last year's winners Napier Boys' School.

HBHS put together a clinical performance in the semi final - a sharp near post strike from Harry Stocker set them on their way, and Levi Clark sealed the win to avenge last year's two losses to Napier in the Super Eight tournament. In the other semi final, Tauranga Boys' accounted for Palmerston North Boys' High School with a comfortable 3-1 win. The Super Eight would have the final it wanted - the top two teams meeting to decide whether the shield would travel across the Kaimais or stay in Hamilton with the hosts. 

HBHS made an excellent start to the final and earned a penalty early in the game. Captain Logan Wisnewski slotted home from the spot. However, before the break, Tauranga hit back, with the excellent and speedy winger Alexander Elliott latching onto a through ball to equalise. Elliott was HBHS' primary concern and all defenders had to be on their game to keep him quiet. Tauranga had a chance to take the lead moments later when the referee awarded them a penalty. After hitting the post, the penalty taker reacted quickly and smashed the ball home, but the referee correctly disallowed the goal as no HBHS player had touched the ball between the miss and the second strike.

After the break, Tauranga did take the lead when HBHS defender Kyle Kirsten was deemed to have tripped a TBC player in the box. The decision seemed fair and Tauranga didn't miss twice.  With 12 minutes left in normal time, Tauranga were growing in confidence and started to control the game, but against the run of play, a fine cross from Levi Clark set up HBHS striker Max Ericksen to slot home from 12 yards out. The HBHS players were delirious. 

Any thoughts of extra time were dispensed with by the classy Levi Clark 6 minutes later. The HBHS No 10 curled a shot over the TBC keeper and sent the local crowd into a frenzy. Players on the bench couldn't control their excitement as they sprinted across the pitch to congratulate their team mates. Two collected yellow cards for their troubles, but these are special moments that stick in the memory for school boys, and who can blame them? 

From that point on it was a matter of seeing the game out. Tauranga Boys' kept on coming, as HBHS coach Mr Scott had warned his charges before the game and at half time. A goal scramble at the death kept all HBHS supporters on edge, but the final whistle came and HBHS celebrated its sixth Super Eight Shield win, just one behind Palmerston North Boys'.

The final witnessed some outstanding performances from the defending national champions. Kirsten and Avi Kumar were resolute at the back, supported very well by Campbell Brown and Ryan Tapp. The mercurial Clark was probably man of the match and formed an excellent partnership with Wisnewski to control large periods of the game. Joel McMullan was also a rock in the important defensive midfield role. He won countless aerial battles and broke up play time and time again when TBC were threatening in the defensive third. 

The tournament was excellent preparation for HBHS as they build towards the National Tournament in Christchurch later in term three. There was something of the inevitable about their come from behind win today. HBHS 1st XI has become the "serial winner" of Super Eight in the last decade and Palmerston North must surely feel that their record of 7 titles is seriously under threat in the years ahead.


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