Challenges ahead for title contenders

Palmerston North Girls (blue) and Sacred Heart College on day 2 of the at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Champs in Rotorua yesterday. Photo supplied

The hunt for a grand finals berth steps up at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Champs and national selector Kiri Wills expects a tight race.

The top eight teams – which includes Howick College and defending champion Saint Kentigern College – were found at the national tournament in Rotorua on Wednesday and pool play to determine which two teams make tomorrow’s final.

Wills said she had seen an “extremely competitive” opening day at the tournament which had set up a challenging second phase as teams were split into the top and bottom eight.

“It’s been a pretty high standard from early on,” she said.  “Often we can see teams easing into it on day one but it’s been full on from the start and some very competitive pools.”

The push for a top two spot in Pool D went to the wire with St Mary’s College of Wellington edging tournament newcomers St Paul’s Collegiate.

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School lost their opening game of the tournament but won their next two games – including a thriller with St Mary’s – to win the highly contested Pool while St Mary’s needed to beat St Paul’s to progress.

They trailed by one goal to St Paul’s going into the second half but narrowly claimed the next two quarters to reach the top eight with a 32-28 victory.

Day two proved a big one for St Mary’s who later faced Pool C winner Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) in the opening round of phase 2 play.

St Mary’s led by one goal at the first break but MAGS won the next three quarters to earn maximum points with a 35-27 win and remain on track for a finals berth.

Wills said players faced another tough day today as they pushed hard to finish ranked one in the pools making up the top eight – earning the right to play in tomorrow’s grand final.

“The intensity certainly lifts and it’s a challenge for the players – both mentally and physically – to bring their best for two games every day,” she said.  “But the girls are pretty primed for this tournament and you can see the excitement.  There’s certainly plenty of emotion – good emotion – from all teams.”

Howick College continued their dream debut at the national tournament by topping Pool A and going on to beat Waikato Diocesan School for Girls 30-26.

“I’m not surprised with how they’ve performed,” Wills said.  “While they will be happy to just be at nationals I believe they are contenders and someone to watch.”

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School also showed they will be tough to topple with a convincing 52-36 win over St Hilda’s Collegiate while the defending champion Saint Kentigern College won an enthralling arm-wrestle with Manukura, winning 35-34, in the last game of the day.

Meanwhile, Palmerston North Girls’ High School, Ashburton College, St Paul’s Collegiate and St Margaret’s College all netted wins in the opening rounds of Pools G and H.

Play continues today with the grand final to be played at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua tomorrow.

Day 1 & 2 Results

Results – Tuesday 10 October

St Hilda’s Collegiate School 39 v Queen Margaret College 27

Mount Albert Grammar School 51 v Ashburton College 25

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 31 v St Mary’s Wellington 30

St Andrew’s College 27 v St Paul’s Collegiate School 46

Howick College 30 v Saint Kentigern College 27

Palmerston North Girls’ High School 30 v Christchurch Girls’ High School 36

Manukura 30 v Waikato Diocesan School for Girls 26

St Margaret’s College 27 v Sacred Heart College 38

St Hilda’s Collegiate School 21 v Mount Albert Grammar School 41

Queen Margaret College 34 v Ashburton College 35

St Mary’s Wellington 45 v St Andrew’s College 20

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 27 v St Paul’s Collegiate School 28

Saint Kentigern College 50 v Christchurch Girls’ High School 20

Palmerston North Girls’ High School 20 v Howick College 35

Manukura 38 v St Margaret’s College 22

Waikato Diocesan School for Girls 32 v Sacred Heart College 28

Results – Wednesday October 11

St Andrew’s College 29 v Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 53

St Paul’s Collegiate School 28 v St Mary’s Wellington 32

Ashburton College 27 v St Hilda’s Collegiate School 44

Queen Margaret College 25 v Mount Albert Grammar School 56

Manukura 44 v Sacred Heart College 18

Waikato Diocesan School for Girls 40 V St Margaret’s College 37

Saint Kentigern College 46 v Palmerston North Girls’ High School 20

Howick College 43 v Christchurch Girls’ High School 17

St Paul’s Collegiate School 44 v Queen Margaret College 19

Ashburton College 33 v St Andrew’s College 25

Sacred Heart College 27 v Palmerston North Girls’ High School 28

Christchurch Girls’ High School 29 v St Margaret’s College 36

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 52 v St Hilda’s Collegiate School 36

Mount Albert Grammar School 35 v St Mary’s Wellington 27

Manukura 34 v Saint Kentigern College 35

Howick College 30 v Waikato Diocesan School for Girls 26