Trophy lost before form found

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North Otago did not manage to retain the Ian Smith Trophy in Invercargill at the weekend but it might have unearthed hockey’s latest star.
The defending champion finished with a bang but paid the price for drawing two and losing one of its first three games, and finished third in the six-team competition.
While it had to watch close rival South Canterbury claim the trophy, North Otago was consoled by the selection of four players _ Brent Martyn, schoolboy Jonty Naylor and brothers Nick and Josh Dalziel _ in the tournament team.
The crucial point of the weekend for North Otago came when it slumped to a 5-2 loss to Eastern Southland in the second round, two goals to Josh Dalziel not enough to paper over a strangely tepid performance.
“We let ourselves down in that second game. We just didn’t front up, really, and it cost us,” North Otago player-coach Shaun Cunningham said. “We’ll take third. It’s not a bad result. And we did finish the tournament strongly, which was nice.”North Otago rattled in 14 goals in its final two games, smashing Central Otago 8-3 and Mid Canterbury 6-1.
Its ball skills and control was to the fore as Nick Dalziel fired in a hat trick against Central Otago, and Josh Dalziel and Naylor each grabbed a brace in the rout of Mid Canterbury.
Naylor, the Waitaki Boys’ High School tyro, scored eight goals in five games, including a hat trick on debut, and made a big splash at the tournament.
“Jonty just came in and fired straight away,” Cunningham said.
“He’s just so hungry for the ball. He’s a real scavenger.”North Otago opened the tournament with a thrilling 4-4 draw with eventual champion South Canterbury.
It was 2-1 to South Canterbury at halftime before North Otago roared into action with three unanswered goals. At 4-2, things were looking bright, before South Canterbury scored twice in the final minutes to seal a draw.
A 3-3 draw with Invercargill, which finished second overall, was another indication North Otago was not far off the pace.
North Otago also trailed at halftime before fighting back to level the scores through two Naylor goals and one to Jim Keown.