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Falcons start over in defence of titles

Falcons start over in defence of titles

Akarana Falcons enter the 2015 Got A Trade? National Youth Tournament as defending champions in both age groups up for grabs, but with many of the same issues faced by their rivals this week.

Falcons 17s coach Keith Hanley guided his side to the title 12 months ago, but that means almost nothing at an event where the only constant, from one season to the next, is change.

Last year, his team were up just 16-14 over Counties Manukau with a few minutes remaining, but gained some breathing room with a try in the corner and managed to survive a goal-line assault on the final hooter.

Hanley was named 17s Coach of the Tournament afterwards.

This year, he must start from scratch, albeit with the benefit of a new crop of 15s champions.

“We’ve come down here, knowing that, after winning the title last year, there’s a target on our backs.

“We’re conscious of it, but it doesn’t bother us.

“It’s a new side, a different side. We’re not trying to defend the title, we’re just trying to win it.

“It’s about our processes, it’s about finding some consistency and playing together for a good performance.”

Losing players is an occupational hazard at a tournament that is all about providing pathways to better things.

A wave of players is gone, some have embarked on the professional or international pathway, while others have fallen to untimely injury.

Some teams have lost personnel to the NZ 18s, currently taking on Australian Schoolboys in Brisbane.

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Hanley is reasonably lucky in this regard - his only defection has been five-eighth Bostyn Hakaraia, a survivor from last year’s 17s tournament merit team.

But the late loss of NZ Secondary Schools half Zae Wallace on the eve of the tournament means this key area is now relatively unsettled.

“We’ve had a difficult build-up,” says Hanely. “There’s so much football on at school, club and representative, and so much energy put into these things by the boys.

“There have been some challenges, but we’re looking forward to it and we’re pretty excited.”

Puketawhero Park, Rotorua

Monday, September 28

Akarana Falcons v Northern Swords, Puketawhero 4
Referee - Dave Miller, touch - Mack Seymour & Taylor Waenga

Wai-Coa-Bay Colts v Auckland Vulcans, Puketawhero 5
Referee - Atene Karaura, touch - Caslo Winekeri & Tane Kaiwai

South Island Scorpions v Counties Manukau Stingrays, Puketawhero 4
Referee - Hone Nikora Davis, touch - Dave Miller & Taylor Waenga

Wellington Orcas v Central Vipers, Puketawhero 5
Referee - Tane Kaiwai, touch—Graeme Hll & Caslo Winekeri

Counties Manukau Stingrays v Northern Swords, Puketawhero 2
Referee - Simon Taylor, touch - Henare Chadwick & Kena Waikai

Auckland Vulcans v South Island Scorpions, Puketawhero 3
Referee - Rochelle Tamarua, touch - Graeme Hill & Joe Green

Akarana Falcons v Central Vipers, Puketawhero 2
Referee - Henare Chadwick, touch - Mack Seymour & Simon Taylor

Wellington Orcas v Wai-Coa-Bay Colts, Puketawhero 3
Referee - Kena Waikai, touch - Atene Karauria & Joe Green


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