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Kings came into the match as top qualifier and with the better of the records in the individual matchups between the sides this season, but there was still a feeling the defending champion University was probably the favourite going into the game.
The first half of the match involved a lot of cautious play, with neither side keen to be the first to make a telling mistake. While there were a few chances offered, none was particularly threatening as the first half ticked away.
The second half was a different affair as right from the restart the Whales were hot on attack and looking dangerous, their weight of possession and territory began to tell and the University strikers found themselves in dangerous positions. However the first goal came soon after a Kings attack had gone begging and University came up the other end. From a long corner a quick pass into the circle found a diving Nick Morgan, who got the smallest of touches through the keeper’s legs and into the backboard.
The Whales continued to push hard and created a couple of real chances but it was a long ball down to striker Mark Bell-Kake which looked to have put the game to bed as he turned swiftly, beat the last defender and got around the goalie to smash the ball home and double the lead.
However, Kings have made a real habit of last-minute scoring this season and the top qualifiers were not about to let the last few minutes slide away. After a sustained surge in pressure a penalty corner attempt hit a University defender in the side of the face and unluckily for him this led to a penalty stroke for Kings, which was expertly converted by Campbell Paton with just two minutes remaining.
At 2-1 the panic was on and with mere seconds left the usually calm University Whales defence conceded a somewhat soft penalty corner for a mistrap on to a foot. The ensuing minutes were almost out of a movie script as the game would not end — Kings were unable to score while University could not clear its goalmouth. There were several consecutive penalty corners and after multiple resets Hitaua Doyle found an equaliser with an unlikely flick through the goalie’s legs.
Extra time beckoned and the game opened up, as each 5 minute period two fewer players are allowed on the pitch.
At 7 a side, Paton was able to find an unmarked Craig Turner in the circle and he
deflected the ball into the net and Kings completed their unlikely comeback to take the title.
Albany Alligators finished 3rd, with Taieri Tuataras fourth and University Black Panthers fifth in the final premier standings. The division two final was won by Albany Development, which beat Taieri Raptors, and Taieri Turtles beat Kings United Masters to retain their third division title.
- Matthew West