Wellington College stun Paraparaumu College in P1 hockey final

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/sport/college-sport/96260013/wellington-college-stun-paraparaumu-college-in-p1-hockey-final

A dramatic late goal sealed Wellington College the P1 hockey title and vital momentum heading into the national tournament.

Marco Brown scored a golden goal with 40 seconds left of extra time in Friday’s final against Paraparaumu College at the National Hockey Stadium. The scores were level at 1-1 after normal time and stayed that way after the end of the first period of extra time with the teams down to nine aside.

It looked as though the match was headed for a shoot-out as neither side could find a way through in the 7v7 second extra time, but Brown stepped up when needed to spark jubilant celebrations with his team-mates and their supporters.

For coach Chuni Bhikha, it was a fitting finale to the competition.

“It could have gone either way at various points in the game. There were times when we were in control and there were times when Pram were in control and they certainly had us worried in extra time when they had a couple of penalty corners, but we managed to ride that through.”

Wellington came into the final as underdogs, having lost four times to Paraparaumu this year, including a 6-1 drubbing two weeks before the final.

But Bhikha said that scoreline was misleading, with simple errors to blame for a lot of the goals. It also meant the pressure was on Paraparaumu to perform in the final, as they came into it with an unbeaten record from the round robin.

“They’d beaten us consistently and well and I think the pressure was on them. I think we were able to lift our game to that level where it was almost like we turned the tables a bit and did put the pressure back on them.

“We did a few different things strategically, but the biggest thing for me was their composure and discipline throughout the game that got us through that second lot of extra time.”

It won’t be the last time Wellington meet Paraparaumu. They are set for a sixth clash of the season in pool play at next week’s Rankin Cup national tournament in Hamilton. Joining those teams in pool F will be Tauranga Boys’ College and St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.

“We’re in a reasonably tough pool,” Bhikha said.

“The first three games you’ve really got to win two. We played Tauranga Boys’ in pre-season and lost 1-0. They’re tough, aggressive side. They play in the local men’s competition up there and will be a tough nut as well.

“The third team is probably an easier game in a sense in St Pat’s Silverstream, who play in our second division in Wellington.”

The aim would be to make the top 16 and then take it one game at a time.

They will have to play the tournament without one of their best players in Devanand Bhikha, Chuni’s son, who fractured his collarbone in Friday’s final.

But injuries weren’t uncommon for this team.

“Throughout the season we’ve had plenty of injuries with our senior players. One of our vice-captains was out for six weeks with a wrist/arm injury, and a couple of others as well.

“The team has been through a lot of adapting throughout the season and I think that has helped bring them together. They’ve learned really quickly how to play for each other when we’re without key players and I think all of that – as much as you want your 16 all the time – ironically I think it’s helped develop some mental toughness and character in the boys to be able to play without them and still be confident about our gameplan.”

The team had exceeded their own expectations given those injuries, and the fact they had just five players returning from last year.

Heretaunga College and Wairarapa College will be the other teams from the Wellington competition competing at the national tournament.

At the girls’ tournament in Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, St Matthew’s Collegiate (Masterton), Queen Margaret College and Samuel Marsden Collegiate will be in action, with the latter two in the same pool.

St Matthew’s won the girls’ P1 Wellington competition, beating Queen Margaret 1-0 in the final.