THE Southland under-18 mixed touch team capped off a remarkable performance to claim the silver medal at the Youth National Touch Championships held in Auckland last weekend.
In the semi-final, Southland got off to a blinding start, pulling out to a 6-3 lead before Bay of Plenty clawed their way back to level the scores with seven minutes remaining. But the young Southland team kept its composure and managed to finish with two tries in the final minutes to claim a historic 8-6 win and earn their spot in the final against Te Tai Tokerau.
It was a closely fought final, with Southland taking its time to get going. The team managed to claw its way back to a half-time draw, 2-all.
The second half saw back and forth action from both teams.
It appeared Southland had taken the lead with just less than five minutes to go, with a try to Archie Body. However, his try was disallowed due to a previous forward pass. The momentum shifted to the northerners, who managed to take their chances in the last few minutes to win 8-5.
Captain Lochie Earland led from the front throughout the weekend both on attack and defence, himself and James Hargest College pupil Madison Grieve topped the try count with 10 each during the three days.
Wakatipu High School’s George Reedy proved a handful for opposition defence while Southland Girls’ High School’s Tia Fowle and Central Southland College pupil Riley Ballantyne both had outstanding tournaments with Southland’s female contingent strong in comparison to those in the 13 teams competing in the under-18 mixed grade.
The Southland under-16 mixed team also hopped back on the plane with some silverware after claiming the plate title to finish fifth in a hotly contested grade featuring 15 provinces.
Southland probably saved its best for last, putting in a quality 30 minutes to take a 7-4 win against Marlborough to bring home the plate plaque.
Southland would be back in action at the Open Nationals in Christchurch in early March with the under-21 women’s team taking part.