South Island Scorpions have achieved something special to savour, producing the upset of the week to progress to tomorrow’s NZRL National Youth Tournament 17s final.
After finishing second in Pool D, the southerners were drawn against a rampant Counties Manukau outfit that had compiled the best points differential (+122) of any team through preliminary play.
But rain and heavy conditions proved a leveler, as South island scored the first 16 points of the encounter and the final 12 to prevail 28-8.
Second rowers Jordan Leigh and Cruz Topai-Aveai dominated the forward exchanges, running in a pair of tries each, while half Brad Campbell converted four of their five touchdowns.
“There was just a lot of belief, the boys were really up for it,” observed Scorpions co-coach Archie Jacobs. “It also came down to a lot of hard work – our middles worked extremely hard for us today.
“For us, coming from the South Island, the conditions probably suited us a bit better. We’re used to playing in these slippery, wet conditions, keeping it tight and playing it up the middle.”
“Now they understand what’s required and our expectations. They understand what it takes to come to these tournaments and be successful.”
South Island now find themselves up against Akarana Falcons for the second time this week, having lost 44-10 in their pool.
Falcons were always in control of their semi-final, cruising clear of Auckland Vulcans 26-4, with winger Mathew Timoko grabbing a pair of tries.
In the 15s grade, titleholders Akarana Falcons were thoroughly tested by their Vulcans opponents, a side made up of players who missed selection for Akarana or Counties rosters.
The Vulcans led 6-4 at half-time, but conceded 12 straight points to lose their grip on the contest. Akarana eventually prevailed 16-12, with Dillon Vale crossing for two tries.
“It was very tough,” reflected Falcons coach Alan Ettles. “Auckland definitely brought it to us and it went down to the wire.
“We had to change the tempo of the game, controlled the ball a bit more and played more down in their half.
“It’s a big rivalry, with lots of points to prove on both teams, but they’re brothers, on and off the field.”
They now face arch-rivals Counties Manukau Stingrays, who made no race of their semi-final against Wai-Coa-Bay Colts, running out easy 34-6 winners.
NZRL NATIONAL YOUTH TOURNAMENT
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Thursday, September 29
(5-8) Wellington Orcas 30 (Maui Wallace 2, Keelan Ng, Stanley Fiso Vaelei & Iiai Tuai tries; Ng 5 goals) Northern Swords 12 (Tuia Mehano-Puru, Nokisi Kaiarake & Brigham Jackson tries)
(5-8) South Island Scorpions 18 (Manaia Edwards-Aumua 2, Salio Tafaese & Caius Faatili tries; Edwards-Aumua goal) Central Vipers 16 (Zamaya Lilo, Ngarimu Waru & Jamie Lee Robertson tries; Brookly Herewini 2 goals)
(semi) Akarana Falcons 16 (Dillon Vale 2 & Christian Tuipulotu tries; Tuinamo Tepulolo & Samuel Kamu goals) Auckland Vulcans 12 (Daylen Meredith & Darius Hignett-Morgan tries; Sione Moala 2 goals)
(semi) Counties Manukau Stingrays 34 (Semisi Sikei 2, Fangupo-Paea Fotu, Brian Lealifano, Aamon Dean & Etuale tries; Fotu 3 & Te Napi Waipour 2 goals) Wai-Coa-Bay Colts 6 (Sean Field try; Rhemus Rutene goal)
(5-8) Wellington Orcas 24 (Isiah Tauri, Te Aorere Wanoa, Mason Lucas & Darius Patau tries; Wanoa 4 goals) Central Vipers 20 (Israel Hape-Moke 2, Jahlon Governor & Corey Lee Hadfield Robertson tries; Governor 2 goals)
(5-8) Wai-Coa-Bay Colts 34 (Aublix Tawha, John Friis, Te Ranga Kihi, Brandin Carlson, Sheldon Rogers, Taelem McGregor & Waratana Hartley tries; Liam Jones 3 goals) Northern Swords 22 (Diani Timms 2, Taine Shelford & Owen Shanks tries; Levita Levita 3 goals)
(semi) South Island Scorpions 28 (Jordan Leigh 2, Cruz Topai-Aveai 2 & Nash Forrester tries; Brad Campbell 4 goals) Counties Manukau Stingrays 8 (Sione To’a & Dylan Tavita tries)
(semi) Akarana Falcons 26 (Mathew Timoko 2, Carlos Henry, Vito Tevaga & Jonty Timoti tries; Regan McClennan 3 goals) Auckland Vulcans 4 (Nathaniel Law goal)
Friday, September 30
10am – (5/6) Wellington Orcas v South Island Scorpions
10am – (7/8) Northern Swords v Central Vipers
11.15am – (3/4) Auckland Vulcans v Wai-Coa-Bay Colts
12.15pm – (final) Akarana Falcons v Counties Manukau Stingrays
10am – (5/6) Wellington Orcas v Wai-Coa-Bay Colts
10am – (7/8) Central Vipers v Northern Swords
11.15am – (3/4) Counties Manukau v Auckland Vulcans
1.30pm – (final) South Island Scorpions v Akarana Falcons
(Main photo: Gerhard Egger)