Tue, Feb 20, 2024 12:30 PM

Touch teams impress in Auckland


Peter Jones

The Marlborough under-18 mixed touch team exceeded all their expectations with a fourth-place finish at the recent Youth National champs in Auckland.

Prior to the tournament the team’s ambition was a place in the top eight, so a top four placing was an outstanding achievement for arguably one of the smallest provinces at the event. This is the highest placing by a Marlborough team at the Youth Nationals.

The first game against Whanganui was livestreamed, which added to the pre-game nerves, but the players stepped up and played a very fast and direct game which resulted in an 8-2 win.

In a pool dominated by North Island provinces, Marlborough were the dark horses and took a couple of unexpected scalps, beating North Harbour and drawing 5-5 with perennial powerhouse Waikato.

The draw with Waikato put both teams on the same standings with the same points differential and as the game was a draw, a countback calculation put Marlborough ahead by 0.04 percent, which was enough to see them reach the semifinals.

Their semi opponent was Manawatu, who had topped the opposite pool and they prevailed 9-3.

Marlborough then went into a bronze medal match against Counties, which also didn’t go their way, losing 7-2.

Coaches Harry McKenzie and Tom Downes put in a sterling effort to bring the team together so well.

The Marlborough under-18 mixed team: Ajay Gane, Axell Allen (co-captain), Ben Blackmore, Finn McCarthy, Isabella Tupouto’a (co-captain), Jake Gane, Jake Lawson, Leo Marfell (co-captain), MacKenzie Sampson, Paige O’Brien, Rico Nicklin, Shani Tilbury, Sophia Saggers. Harry McKenzie and Tom Downes (coaches); Ngaire Lawson (manager).


Pool games: v Whanganui won 8-2; v Auckland lost 8-2; v North Harbour won 5-2; v Te Tai Tokerau drew 3-3; v Waikato drew 5-5;

Playoff Games: v Manawatu lost 9-3; v Counties Manukau lost 7-2.

Marlborough Touch also sent an under-16 girls team to Auckland, the first time they had done so.

In previous tournaments Marlborough has sent mixed teams but this year identified that there were enough girls of Nationals standard to be able to compete.

The U16 Girls team finished eighth, competed hard in all games and showed promise for the future, especially with three of the girls only 13-years-old.

There were 16 teams in the U16 girls grade, with games very hotly contested.

Marlborough were a well-drilled unit who played with flair and skill. They were unlucky in their play-off game against Queensland Maori, with a couple of referee calls going against them, leaving them playing off for seventh and eighth. Tiredness and injury hampered the team on the last day but their final placing was well-deserved and put Marlborough firmly on the national touch map.

The group’s tour manager said, “Everyone is very proud of the players who represented Marlborough on the Nationals stage. The whole group gave it their all.

“It is a huge effort to get players to Auckland in terms of both time and resources but we were rewarded by some great touch being played by both teams.”

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