24 Teams from around the North Island converged on Rotorua Puketawhero Park last week. Representation was excellent with teams entering from Northland down to Manawatu. Puketawhero Park was an ideal venue to host the Tournament, which was delivered jointly by personnel from Bay of Plenty Rugby League, the Upper Central Zone League and New Zealand Rugby League.
The fields were in excellent condition and held up well through four days of matches, on the final day (Friday) the heavens opened up with heavy rain all day dictating the state-of-play.
After the round-robin fixtures, the finalists were named in each age-group category.
Under 13 Boys Final: Waikato 20 – Taranaki 14
Both teams performed well through the first days of pool play. Waikato went into the final as the slight favourites given their results over the first two days, but Taranaki didn’t let that phase them as they came out hard against Waikato through much of the final match.
Not much separated the two sides over the 50-minute mark with Waikato’s organised defence proving the difference.
The remaining finals were played on Friday, and as mentioned, the weather was unfavourable and perhaps for some observers, seen as ‘the great leveller’ as teams played a much tighter game than that of the free-flowing and wide-ranging footy on display through the first part of the week.
Under 15 Girls Final: Waikato 32 – Taranaki 10
Waikato again was the form team through pool-play and their structured attack and defence were on display in the Final.
They did not allow Taranaki to play the ball wide, where they had some dangerous runners, instead, compressing the Taranaki play, restricting them to playing in the middle of the park.
Waikato took their chances with faster and smarter ball playing and decisions that saw them post a comprehensive final score.
Under 15 Boys Final: Waikato 16 – Manawatu 8
A very even and well-contested final between two well-coached sides. Waikato had a plan to keep the ball down in Manawatu’s half of the field and from there force the mistakes, it worked well.
Under 17 Girls Final: Waikato 28 – Manawatu 0
Manawatu played some good football through the pool stages of the tournament, making their way to the Final.
Waikato showed early in pool-play that they were going to set the standard and be the team to beat as they won their way into the Final.
Under some very trying conditions, the Waikato team played as smart and accurate as you could possibly expect from any team in such weather.
A solid platform was set by ensuring their tackle-sets were completed, and some safe, accurate decisions in the halves ensured that the game was mainly played down in the Manawatu half of the field. Manawatu was put under constant pressure, and the points eventually came for Waikato.
Under 17 Boys Final: Manawatu 20 – Bay of Plenty 10
Fading light and a wet, muddy field resulted in some tight but accurate football on display from both teams.
With that said, each side took opportunities to kick the ball down-field and chase hard, taking a chance on spreading the ball wide, which on two occasions paid off for Manawatu.
Bay of Plenty got off to a good start, but Manawatu stuck to a great game-plan, and their centre pairing took the ball over the gain-line regularly and effectively.
Manawatu was deserved winners of this Final however both teams played some excellent football throughout the Tournament.
NIDT 2019 UNDER 17 BOYS MERIT TEAM
COACH. BJ Tahana – BOP
MANAGER. Jackie Tuala – Manawatu
TRAINER. Haze Rewiti – Manawatu
BEST BACK. Sheldon Tairea – Manawatu
BEST FORWARD. Dayna Bidois – BOP
MVP – Cassius Cowley – BOP
NIDT 2019 UNDER 17 GIRLS MERIT TEAM
COACH. Mike Wilson – Waikato
MANAGER. Maria Paul – Manawatu
TRAINER. Thomas Taiarua – Manawatu
BEST BACK. Dawn Hohua – Waikato
BEST FORWARD. Mya Hill-Moana – Waikato
MVP. Victoria Rose Green – Waikato
NIDT 2019 UNDER 15 BOYS MERIT TEAM
COACH. Leroy Morgan – Waikato
MANAGER. Mel Stevenson – Manawatu
TRAINER. Viliami Vunipola – Manawatu
BEST BACK. Te Hurinui Apanui Twidle – Waikato
BEST FORWARD. Xavier Sofani-Calder – Taranaki
MVP. Te Umariki Heremia- Tukere – Waikato
NIDT 2019 UNDER 15’S GIRLS MERIT TEAM
COACH. Joshua Cowan – Waikato
MANAGER. Manawa Rhind – Waikato
BEST BACK. Katana Te Miha Barlow – Waikato
BEST FORWARD. Pikitoria Weston Jacobson – Taranaki
MVP. Paige Wilson – Waikato