Jubilation etched across their faces, members of the Aquinas water polo team savored a little bit of history on the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga today.
The week-long tournament drew to a close amid tense competition across 17 different sporting codes, with 7500 intermediate-aged athletes trying to snare elusive gold.
None was as tense as the boys water polo final, where Tauranga’s Aquinas College and Auckland’s Kristin School were locked at 6-all at the end of regulation play.
Both teams converted their first four attempts before Aquinas goalie Jack McManaway got a touch on one shot and sent it deflecting off the post. His teammate Connor Farrell stepped up and slammed the winning shot home; he was quickly inundated as the rest of the team dived in to celebrate.
“We were screaming and giving fist-pumps – we trained really hard for it and it was good for all that training to pay off,” Aquinas captain Kiahi Horan said. It was the first time the water polo trophy has ever left Auckland, with eight of the previous nine titles won by Murrays Bay and Glen Eden winning in 2011.
The Aquinas team also has decent pedigree – Horan’s father and coach is former New Zealand and Australian water polo representative Brendon Horan, while tournament MVP Loui Schuler – who collected more than 20 goals – is the son of former All Black Kevin.
“They had a really good goalie but we just aimed for the corners and it was something we’d practiced a lot,” Schuler explained.
Glen Eden also made history by winning the netball title for the first time, beating Murrays Bay 33-21 in a one-sided final.
With seven players in the Waitakere representative team, Glen Eden’s accuracy through the court in slippery conditions proved the difference.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Glen Eden captain Moanekah Va’ai said. “We wanted that gold really bad and went for it in the last quarter. We actually lost our first game of the tournament to Tauranga but we’ve climbed really well from there – it pushed us on to get the gold.”
Hastings Intermediate, managed by former Kiwis coach Kevin Tamati, overcame a determined Rotorua Intermediate team 12-6 in the rugby league final. Earlier, Hastings had beaten Whangaparoa College 18-0 in the semifinal, while two late tries gave Rotorua a 24-18 win over Southern Cross.
Form team St Cuthberts scored twice in the last 2mins to inflate an otherwise tense win over Otumoetai in the girls hockey final, sealing a 4-1 victory thanks to some epic second-half defense amid an Otumoetai onslaught.
Tauranga Intermediate shook off a slow first half in the boys hockey final, scoring in the last moments of the first spell but then pouring five more past Northland’s Kamo Intermediate in a clinical display. They eventually won 6-1, while Taradale – who lost in a penalty shootout to Tauranga in yesterday’s semifinal – also scored six goals in a 6-0 win over Pinehurst in the third/fourth playoff.
Rosmini College, featuring Dylan Boucher’s son Jayden, won the basketball battle of the North Shore, tipping over Northcross 36-29 in the final, while Takapuna NormalIntermediate were too strong for one of the tournament’s surprise packages, tiny Rotorua school Te Kura O Te Koutu, winning 53-26 in the girls final.
In a stunning double triumph, Auckland Normal Intermediate won both divisions football as the clouds opened on the final afternoon.
The team scored mid-way through the first half against North Shore rivals Northcross Intermediate, keeping the ball moving throughout the game and retaining most of the possession.
Northcross defended admirably under relentless second half pressure but Northcross claimed the title and kept an unbeaten tournament record in winning 1-0. Their girls team, meanwhile, needed a second half clincher to give them a 2-1 win over Murrays Bay.
Tauranga Intermediate’s Hayley Riddell and Alana Laurie won the gold medal in the pairs at the indoor bowls in their second crack at the title, beating schoolmates Connor Christoffersen and Ben Tang in two close sets.
Josh Feng (Murrays Bay) added the badminton doubles title to the singles crown he won earlier in the week, pairing with Vincent Tao to beat Johnson Li and Anthony Shao (Bucklands Beach) 21-12 21-14, while Tamara Otene and Yvonne Wang made it a clean sweep for Murrays Bay, winning the doubles title to go with Otene’s singles win.
Tournament director Vicki Semple said there is every indication the event – which had nearly 3000 more competitors than the Commonwealth Games this year – will continue to grow.
“It’s been an incredible week with 1000 more athletes that last year but they’ve just been absorbed brilliantly into the tournament,” Semple said. “We can only get bigger and we’re already getting feedback from schools who wished they’d been here this year but are definitely lining it up for next year.”