Secondary Schools National Touch Championship
The XBlades New Zealand Secondary Schools National Touch Championship lived up pre-tournament expectations today as the opening rounds of pool play provided plenty of surprises and some serious Grade A Touch. Saturday’s action will be just as cut-throat as teams vie for the chance to make the finals.
The biggest shock in the Boys Grade came in Pool B where perennial contenders Rotorua Boys and Hato Paora were knocked out by the boys from Christchurch Boys High who were a late entry into the competition and were not overly strong at the zonal qualifying tournament.
Defending champions from 2008-2009 Hamilton Boys High remain the team to beat and have started strongly this year. Kelston Boys have been strong performers and along with St Kentigens and Papanui, will make the Waikato team earn a third successive title the hard way.
It’s a similar story in the Girls Grade with powerhouse Papanui Girls High School the team to beat. Hamilton Girls High is also looking solid and it the two teams matching up tomorrow will be a game to take notice of. Manurewa High and Mt Albert Grammar are also in the mix and playing some excellent Touch.
Macleans College lost last year’s final to Opotiki in the Mixed Grade and will be looking to go one better. The pressure is definitely on them as Opotiki chose not to attend in 2010 and so far they have delivered, their well-organised defence only conceding five Touchdowns over three games. St. Andrews School and Queen Elizabeth College both have a strong base and history in Touch and shouldn’t be discounted.
Teams’ chances on Saturday may hinge on who comes out firing in the morning and can match that with the stamina to last through up to four tough games. Friday featured difficult windy conditions for players and hydration and post-game rest might provide the difference between winning and losing as the tournament progresses.
It shapes up to be an amazing Touch weekend in Palmerston North with some great skills coming out already and no doubt more to come as the cream of the competition and high-ranked teams face off against each-other.