Mixed results for Sthld in nationals

Southland touch teams enjoyed a solid weekend with mixed finishes at the junior nationals in Rotorua.

The southernmost province was represented by three teams over the three-day tournament.

The under-16 mixed team would consider their tournament a success with fourth place.

Day-one wins over Canterbury (11-2) and Nelson (7-6) got it off to a great start. On day two, it had a narrow 4-2 loss to eventual finalist Te Tai Tokerau, before wins over North Harbour (4-1) and Thames Valley (5-4) ensured a place in the semifinals.

Taking on a slick Auckland team in the semifinal, the young Southlanders gave their highly rated opposition a real scare; a 3-3 halftime score line raised more than a few eyebrows from Auckland supporters around the ground.

In the end it was Auckland that took the win, 7-5, but it was arguably Southland's most impressive showing across the weekend. In the bronze medal match against Bay of Plenty, the team fell just short, going down 7-5 to claim fourth position.

Players to stand out were Kaea Nikora-Balloch, who was a constant handful for opposition defences, along with Lochie Earland and George Reedy, while Anabelle Doherty was the team's top scorer with 13 touchdowns.

The under-16 girls found the going tough on day one. In a tough draw, they took on eventual finalists Canterbury and North Harbour, along with heavyweight Auckland, first up.

They had better fortune on day two with a draw against Bay of Plenty, followed up by wins over Horowhenua Kapiti, Queensland Maori and Counties Manukau Red. They finished the tournament 10th out of 18 teams, with a large contingent eligible to play in the grade again in 2020.

It was a case of a slow start for the under-18 mixed team. After losses to Auckland and Thames Valley, Southland kicked into gear with a draw against Whanganui and wins over Counties Manukau and Marlborough.

A disappointing loss to Taranaki dashed hopes of a top-four finish. The team was able to finish on a high with a win over Canterbury to finish in ninth position.

All eyes will now turn to selection as Touch New Zealand announces national under-16 and under-18 sides to compete in Australia later this year.

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