Under-13s lift effort when it counts

An inspired comeback provided the Southland under-13 boys' touch team with the South Island title in Christchurch last weekend.

Over 45 teams took part in the tournament, which included sides from Nelson Bays, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago and Southland catering for age groups from under-11 through to under-17.

The under-13 boys' team was the only Southland side to make a final and didn't disappoint.

The under-13s began the two-day tournament in impressive fashion, accounting for both Nelson Bays 4-1 and Otago 4-1 on the first day.

A slip-up early on day two saw them go down to Marlborough 5-4, leaving them with an important pool play match against an unbeaten Canterbury side.

After a tight first half with the scores locked at 0-0, it was Canterbury who took the initiative in the second spell scoring four unanswered touchdowns to claim a 4-0 victory.

Fortunately for the young Southland team, a superior points differential over Otago and Marlborough allowed them to qualify in second position and get a second crack at beating Canterbury in the under-13 boys' final.

After a tense encounter that swung up and down the field, the fulltime whistle sounded with the scores locked at 3-3 meaning a drop off, commonly known as extra time, was needed to decide the result.

After tapping off first Southland managed to work the ball down to the Canterbury tryline where Jordan Smith dived over in the corner for the match-winner.

Canterbury got one set of six touches to get down to the Southland line and try to score to keep the match going, but the Southland defence held strong to complete a big turnaround after being beaten by the same side two hours earlier.

In other results the under-11 boys' and under-17 girls' sides both went down in their respective semifinals, both losing to Otago in extra time.

All other teams had their moments of throughout the weekend but couldn't maintain it for the entirety of each match.

However, with many playing their first year of representative touch it is hoped they will benefit from the experience and return to the 2014 tournament as better players and better teams.

The Southland Times