Final proves a game too far

It was one game too many for the Southern United  team.

It was beaten 4-1 by Auckland in the final of the national futsal league in Wellington yesterday.

The loss  ended the final weekend of the season — a three-day tournament — as the side came up just short in defending its title.

However, perhaps the story should  be  that it made the final at all.It  trailed Northern  4-0 with 10 minutes to go in its semifinal, before coming roaring back to take the lead.

Northern responded by making it 5-5, before a Ben O’Farrell header on the final touch of the game sent Southern into the final.

It was a game that Southern captain Fraser Hunter described as "absolutely nuts" and one where "pretty much everything that could happen, did happen".

Despite that the Auckland defence proved too much to break down in the final. It jumped out a 3-0 lead and while Southern pegged one back, it was unable to get any closer as fatigue set in.

Earlier in the weekend, Southern had shown great fight to reach the top four.

It beat Auckland 4-2 in its opener,  then a comprehensive 5-1 win over Bay of Plenty left it in a good place. However, a surprise 5-3 loss to Waikato — which went on to beat Capital — left it playing a virtual quarterfinal against Northern on Saturday night.

It navigated that challenge  well, though, winning 5-1 to secure a game against the same opponent.

While the weekend had not yielded a title defence, Hunter was happy with the season.

In recent years champions had not fared well the following season, so it was good to put on another strong showing.

"I’m really proud of the boys, to be honest," he said.

"A team hasn’t really backed up winning the league with a good performance for quite a while.

"I think when everyone pegs you as the favourite it makes it that much tougher, because everyone gets up to play you.

"So we handled that well.

"We didn’t have the greatest series in Auckland and [in the games] against Canterbury.

"But we stuck in there and knew once we got in the top four anything can happen — which was what we saw in the semis."

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