Canterbury emerged from the Southern Zone Rugby League 19s tournament undefeated, but West Coast and Otago returned home from two action-packed days in Christchurch with their heads held high after some encouraging results.
The teams played four games each across a gruelling Saturday and Sunday schedule at Knights Stream Park.
Canterbury and West Coast kicked off the tournament on a chilly Saturday morning, with the host province powering away to a 28-12 win after leading just 10-6 at halftime.
West Coast backed up to play Otago in the second game and led 18-8 at the break, before running out of steam and being held to a 22-all draw by the resurgent southerners. Rockcote Canterbury Bulls halfback Brad Campbell scored a hat-trick and booted three goals for the Coast.
It was then Otago’s turn to feel the fatigue of back-to-back assignments, blitzed 34-6 in the first half by Canterbury in the final game of day one. But Otago showed plenty of character to win the second half in an eventual 40-14 loss.
West Coast stormed out of the blocks on day two, racking up a 50-10 win over Otago with Campbell tallying 18 points for the second straight game and David Lowe and Levi Pascoe notching try-doubles.
But Otago finished their campaign in stirring fashion. They trailed Canterbury by just two points at halftime of Sunday’s second encounter, before going down 24-12 in a gallant effort.
Canterbury centre Fabricius Su’a produced arguably the standout individual display of the tournament by running in five tries in a 42-18 win over West Coast in the day two closer.
Canterbury second-rower Zion Kamana was named the tournament MVP, while Su’a claimed the Back of the Tournament award and West Coast’s Griffin Neame – who starred in Southern Zone 17s National Youth Tournament campaign only a week earlier – won Forward of the Tournament honours.
West Coast’s Brad Tacon was named Referee of the Tournament, Canterbury pair Jason Martin and Adam Kelson were named Coach and Trainer of the Tournament respectively, and West Coast’s Deb Campbell carried off the Manager of the Tournament award.
Lock Chanel Feala and Domanyc Fidow-Kele led Canterbury superbly all weekend and were joined in the Tournament Team alongside six teammates. Campbell and Neame headlined a four-strong West Coast contingent in the Tournament Team, while four Otago players won selection.
The players and management from all three teams were a credit to their provinces, as well as Southern Zone Rugby League. Special thanks also goes to the development officers and referees who helped make an outstanding weekend of footy possible, as well as the Christchurch City Council for making a tremendous venue available in Knights Stream Park.
Canterbury 28 (Reuben Wilson 2, Antonio Lemalu, Domanyc Fidow-Kele, Zion Kamana tries; Jope Gaunavou 3 goals) defeated West Coast 12 (Iraia De Goldi, Levi Pascoe tries; Brad Campbell 2 goals)
West Coast 22 (Brad Campbell 3, Eugene Gillies tries; Campbell 3 goals) drew with Otago 22 (Nehemiah Faamoe-Lone, Teremoana Hamblin, Cam Todd, Nale Ofa, Lemanu Filifilii tries; Jayden Hollander goal)
Canterbury 40 (Reuben Wilson, Nick Evans, Fabricius Su’a, Jope Gaunavao, Josh Rawiri, Simeon Langan, Ketesemane Pauli tries; Gaunavou 6 goals) defeated Otago 14 (Nehemiah Faamoe-Lone, Shade Rowe, Cole Garrett tries; Jayden Hollander goal)
West Coast 50 (David Lowe 2, Jack Coleman 2, Levi Pascoe, Mason Hunt, Brad Campbell, Sincere Harraway, Iraia De Goldi tries; Campbell 7 goals) defeated Otago 10 (Nehemiah Faamoe-Lone, Delaney McKenzie tries; Jayden Hollander goal)
Canterbury 24 (Diploma Muaimalae, Nathan Chai, Jope Gaunavou, Kingston Dempsey, Ben Ferguson tries; Gaunavou 2 goals) defeated Otago 12 (Allan Gillies, Quinn McHardy, Cam Todd tries)
Canterbury 42 (Fabricius Su’a 5, Nick Evans, Antonio Lemalu, Jordan Molioo tries; Jope Gaunavou 4, Jimmy Rangiawha goals) defeated West Coast 18 (Levi Pascoe 2, Brad Campbell tries; Campbell 3 goals)
TOP POINTSCORER: Brad Campbell (West Coast) – 50
TOP TRYSCORER: Fabricius Su’a (Canterbury) – 6