Press Release – New Zealand Rugby League
Friday, September 30, 2016
Stingrays Youth Have Reason to Celebrate
Counties Manukau Stingrays have finally turned the rotten luck of recent years to their favour, toppling rivals Akarana Falcons 18-16 to capture the 15s title at the NZRL National Youth Tournament in Rotorua.
Since the age-group competition reverted to a week-long affair in 2014, the South Aucklanders have been on the wrong end of some heart-breaking outcomes in both 15s and 17s grades, as the Falcons have reigned supreme.
But coach Mike Cudd’s boys have enjoyed some payback in an encounter that swayed one way and then the other.
Counties ran up an early 12-0 advantage, with tries to Diaz Tahia and Fangupo-Paea Fotu, both converted, before Akarana rallied through Daneous Sosaiete and Samuel Kamu.
Locked up 12-12 at half-time, the Falcons took a 16-12 lead soon after the restart, with a try to Totive Junior Tuileisu, and the game seemed to be slipping away from the Stingrays, who had now conceded 16 unanswered points.
But they weren’t done, with Fotu grabbing his second try down the home stretch and Te Napi Waipouri converting. Akarana were hot on attack when the final siren sounded, but were not able to steal victory back.
“This means a heap to us,” insisted Cudd. “The boys have put in a lot of hard work to get here, there were some tough teams through the build-up and we knew the Falcons don’t get beaten very often.
“It came down to the last bounce of the ball. In the last 30 seconds, it could have gone either way, but Lady Luck was smiling on us today.”
Akarana second row Christian Tuipulotu was named Most Valuable Player of the final and Fotu was recognised as outstanding player of the tournament.
The Falcons were more successful in the 17s final, where they overwhelmed the plucky South Island Scorpions 44-6.
Midway through the opening half, the scores was 6-6, after Carlos Henry had put the Aucklanders ahead and Jordan Leigh responded in kind for the southerners.
But the Scorpions had played their hearts out the previous day to oust Counties Manukau in the semi-finals and seemed to run out of inspiration, as Akarana began to impose themselves.
Winger Mathew Timoko ran in a pair of first-half tries and right on the half-time siren, second row Elijah Sufia followed up an opportunistic kick ahead by prop Samuela Vaegi to open up a 28-6 margin.
South Island dug deep over the final 40 minutes, but had nothing left in the tank. Akarana ran in eight tries, six of them converted by Regan McClennan.
“We’re full of respect for the quality game that South Island gave us,” said Falcons coach Keith Hanley. “They put in a great effort to be where they are today and deserve our full admiration.
“We were mindful that they were very strong through that middle third, so we put it on our forwards personally to meet that challenge and I think they responded in a fairly reasonable sort of way.”
Leigh was named MVP of the tournament, but Timoko deserved his player-of-the-day award for breaking the spirit of the Scorpions with his double.
Hanley’s season is far from over – he must drive back to Auckland tonight to guide the Falcons senior team through the NZRL National Premiership Final on Saturday.
NZRL NATIONAL YOUTH TOURNAMENT
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Friday, September 30
(5/6) South Island Scorpions 28 (David Knight, Manaia Edwards-Aumua, Salio Tafaese, Caius Faatili & Griffin Neame tries; Edwards-Aumua 4 goals) Wellington Orcas 26 (Maui Wallace, Dallas McEwan, Leon McLeod-Venu, Itai Tuai & Stanley Fiso Vaelei tries; Keelan Ng 3 goals)
(7/8) Central Vipers 28 (Kayin Katene 2, Tyrese Ratahi, Brooklyn Herewini, Tama Kawana & Caleb Fowell tries; Herewini 2 goals) Northern Swords 10 (Dilano Turner & Nathaniel Colmer tries; Klies Kaiarake goal)
(3/4) Wai-Coa-Bay Colts 12 (Keagan Wharemate, Jahkay Roberts & Koia Katu-Roberts tries) Auckland Vulcans 10 (Soaki Taufa & Peni Kepu tries; Trent Autaua goal)
(final) Counties Manukau Stingrays 18 (Fangupo-Paea 2 & Diaz Tahiia tries; Te Napi Waipouri 2 & Fotu goals) Akarana Falcons 16 (Samuel Kamu, Totive Junior Tuileisu & Daneous Sosaiete tries; Tuinamo Tepulolo 2 goals)
Winners – Counties Manukau Stingrays
Runners-up – Akarana Falcons
Final MVP – Christian Tuipolotu (Akarana)
Fairplay Team – Wellington Orcas
Player of the Tournament – Fangupo-Paea Fotu (Counties Manukau)
Manager of the Tournament – Tania Harris (Counties Manukau)
Trainer of the Tournament – John Hansen (Akarana Falcons)
Coach of the Tournament – Mike Cudd (Counties Manukau)
Merit Team – Samuel Kamu (Akarana), Nathaneal Sasagi (Akarana), Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana), Christian Ma’anaima (Akarana), Marco Talagi (Counties Manukau), Talitua Salima (Counties Manukau), Brian Lealifano (Counties Manukau), Sam Taunga (Counties Manukau), Etuala Lui (Counties Manukau), Kaya Cuthers (Counties Manukau), Aamon Dean (Counties Manukau), Fangupo-Paea Fotu (Counties Manukau), Caius Faatili (Southern), Leroy Ferguson (Southern), Albert Talakai (Wai-Coa-Bay), Jahkay Roberts (Wai-Coa-Bay), Maui Wallace (Wellington)
(5/6) Wellington Orcas 24 (Tyler Jahnke 2, Mason Lucas, Daniel Mihaere & William Rua tries; Te Aorere Wanoa 2 goals) Wai-Coa-Bay Colts 20 (Lennox Jarratt 2, John Friis & Kobe Rodger tries; Liam Jones 2 goals)
(7/8) Central Vipers 34 (Israel Hape-Moke 2, Saiasi Qiokata, Neihana Johnson, Pawhare Kershaw, Core-Lee Hadfield-Robertson & Emil Vella tries; Jahlon Governor 3 goals) Northern Swords 12 (Tanekaha Ngaropo-Roma, Ngatai Manukau-Togiavalu & Hoani Rogers-Brown tries)
(3/4) Counties Manukau 40 (Alfred Smalley 2, Sione To’a, Etene Nanai Seturo, Nofoasa Malutoa, Sione Ngahe & Kayleb Milne tries; Dylan Tavita 6 goals) Auckland Vulcans 10 (Zalmon Meti-Mata’u & Nathaniel Law tries; Lewis Sio goal)
(final) Akarana Falcons 44 (Mathew Timoko 2, Carlos Henry, Vito Tevaga, Jonty Timoti, Sean Mullany, Elijah Sufia & Ranaperi Baker tries; Regan McClennan 6 goals) South Island Scorpions 6 (Jordan Leigh try; Brad Campbell goal)
Winners – Akarana Falcons
Runners-up – South Island Scorpions
Final MVP – Matt Timoko (Akarana)
Fairplay Team – Wai-Coa-Bay Colts
Player of the Tournament – Jordan Leigh (South Island)
Manager of the Tournament – Marty Brown (Northern)
Trainer of the Tournament – Nick Le Comte (South Island)
Coach of the Tournament – Tai Arona (South Island)
Merit Team – Starford Toa (Akarana), Carlos Henry (Akarana), Vito Tevaga (Akarana), Matthew Timoko (Akarana), Regan McClennan (Akarana), Sean Mullany (Akarana), Javvier Pitovao (Akarana), Lewis Afeaki (Akarana), Alfred Smalley (Counties Manukau), Samiuela Lauhingoa (Counties Manukau), Kayleb Milne (Counties Manukau), Phillip Makatoa (Counties Manukau), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau), Jahlon Governor (Mid Central), Wesley Veikoso (Mid Central), Cruz Topai-Aveai (Southern), Jordan Leigh (Southern)
Referee’s Referee – Daniel Price
Referee of the Tournament – Jaxon McGowan