Rankin Cup win 'pretty special'

Coach Dave Ross
Coach Dave Ross
King's High School kept defying the odds all the way to a historic championship title.

The Dunedin school has achieved what no other school south of the Waitaki River has ever managed and won the Rankin Cup, the country's elite secondary schools tournament for boys that dates from 1923.

King's beat the powerful Timaru Boys' High School 2-0 in the final in Christchurch on Saturday. It was a remarkable effort considering long-serving coach Dave Ross thought it was a decent enough achievement just to finish in the top two in pool F.

"When you go through and have a look at all the names of the schools on the trophy, there are some well-established schools with huge hockey programmes,'' he said.

"It is very difficult for the smaller schools to complete well. But having said that we've always punched above our weight.''

King's beat Whanganui High School 3-1 first up and then held Auckland's Rosmini College to a 1-1 draw.

That meant it had a must-win game against Wellington College, which it managed to win 1-0.

King's then beat New Plymouth Boys' High School 3-1 and Christchurch Boys' High School 1-0.

That set up a tense semifinal against the defending champion, St Kentigern College.

The game was tied 1-1 but King's won the shootout 5-3 to progress to the final.

Timaru dominated possession in the final, had more shots and more circle penetrations. But King's were tremendous on defence. The team scrambled and was extremely well-organised against the penalty corner threat Timaru posed.

The goals came down the other end. King's striker James Nicolson slotted a drag flick and about 10 minutes later Ronan McNeill sealed the victory with a field goal.

"Defence is really what got us there in the end. We only conceded four goals in seven games which was about half of any other team. And we relied on quick counterattacks because we had a bit of pace up front.''

Ross, who has been coaching at King's for more than 30 years, was emotional at the end.

"You have to be very calm and measured, otherwise you can get too far in front of yourself. When you realise the whole tournament is over, you can breathe a sigh of relief and think did we actually do that.

"It was a bit surreal in some ways.

"We had probably 30 ex-King's guys come out to support our lads which I thought was really great. There was a huge family there which was humbling and that is actually when I did get emotional.

"It was pretty special.''

Nicolson was a menace up front all tournament and has the potential to go on to play international hockey.

Zeke Buschl was outstanding in the midfield, while Ethan Booth made countless tackles at the back and led the impressive defensive effort.

Patrick Ward showed enormous potential as well, while midfielders McNeill and Tom French carried heavy workloads during the tournament.

John McGlashan College was second in the India Shield tournament. It drew 1-1 with St Bede's College in the final but lost the shootout 4-3.


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