The North Otago 12th grade representative football team returned from the 16 team tournament in Blenheim last week with a 13th place finish.
The prediction of two tough games on day one, against Canterbury Grey and Nelson Royal, was well founded.
North Otago were caught out by some slick play by from the Canterbury side to themselves 5-0 down on the stroke of half time before Zanskar Stohler produced an exceptional consolation goal, gaining possession on the left wing and finding the upright.
The North Otago team continued to battle in the second period against the more physical Canterbury side but the scoreline remained 5-1.
Next up was Nelson Royal, who finished second in last year’s tournament, and provided another tough test for North Otago.
Nelson powered their way to a 4-0 half time lead with two goals coming from long range efforts.
The Royals netted twice more in the second half to take a convincing 6-0 win.
Day two opened with the last of the pool play games against Mid Canterbury.
North Otago started positively, finding some rhythm and structure while dominating possession but Mid Canterbury twice managed to play accurate passes behind the defence to score against the run of play.
Jack Murphy replied for North Otago by latching on to a well- taken cross for a 2-1 scoreline at the interval.
Bailey Broomhall equalised in the second half after finding himself in the right spot from a corner to steer the ball in before Kayle Harris chased a long ball down field to beat two Mid Canterbury defenders and slot the ball passed the goalkeeper for a 3-2 victory.
North Otago could not replicate their form in their next tie and were downed 3-0 by Selwyn.
The final day of the competition began with an 8.30am kick-off against Southland.
North Otago opened the scoring with a goal by Jack Murphy who headed in a corner for a 1-0 at half time.
The lead was extended in the second half when Zanskar Stohler broke free from a crowded group to beat the goal keeper.
The North Otago defence showed composure under pressure from Southland, before Stohler again broke away to end the scoring at 3-0 and set up a final game against Mid Canterbury to decide who would finish 13th.
This time, North Otago scored first, when a poorly cleared corner led to Teo Stohler lobbing the goal keeper from outside the 18-yard box.
In the final seconds of the clash, forward Zanskar Stohler chased down a long ball, rounded the goal keeper and struck a low effort.
Two defenders on the goal line looked to have things under control before Jack Murphy forced the ball over the line with virtually the last touch of the game.
North Otago coach Alan Pope praised the players’ performances and is now looking ahead to next year’s tournament.
“The coaches were pleased with the progress the team has made and hope to carry the majority of players through to tournament next year,” he said.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Nelson’s Luc Gellatly looks to beat North Otago goal keeper Carlin Selfe with a header.