It was a pleasing few days for the very young team which was missing Auckland Under-21 player Xavier Guy and included one Year 9, four Year 10s and three Year 11 students in its line-up.
On Wednesday, the team drew its first match 0-0 against Hamilton Boys' High School, who finished sixth at Rankin in 2015, in a tough opening encounter with Kalpesh Morar and Nikesh Lala turning in good displays. Nikesh, unfortunately, suffered a nasty head cut in the first half and was ruled out for the rest of the tournament. It was an open game with play swinging from end to end, but neither side could put the finishing touch to the chances it created.
In the second game against Wairarapa College, seventh at Rankin last year, King’s dominated the first half with an impressive team performance and took a 10th minute lead when Luke Hindmarsh neatly deflected home a Morar pass into the net. King’s pushed hard for a second but could not add to their total before the interval. In the second half, Wairarapa introduced their two Under-21 players (King’s was not allowed to play its Under-21 player Xavier Guy under Auckland Hockey Association restrictions) and started to take control of the game, adding an equaliser midway through the second half, but goalkeeper Nate Flacks pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep the scores level. With the last hit of the game, Wairarapa stole a 2-1 victory from a penalty corner.
On Thursday, the team was beaten 0-3 by a strong Wellington College, eighth at Rankin last year and including mostly Year 13 students. There was not much to choose between the sides in a goalless first half, but Wellington was more clinical in the circle and broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute at a penalty corner. With King’s pushing for an equaliser, Wellington added two further goals in the last four minutes to earn a flattering victory.
On Thursday afternoon, King’s fell to a disappointing 1-2 defeat to Hastings Boys' High School. Hastings took the early lead, punishing a defensive mistake but Kalpesh Morar grabbed his first goal for King’s at a well-worked penalty corner. In a fiercely-competitive second half, Hastings grabbed the decisive goal in the 43rd minute, again punishing a defensive error.
In the team’s final game of the tournament, King’s showed how much they had improved over the three days with a commanding 3-0 victory over New Plymouth Boys' High School, an important win over a team that King’s will meet in the Rankin Cup pool stages in Wellington later this year. It was the best performance of the season so far. The team took an early lead when Nick Wilson scored an outstanding individual goal in the second minute, dribbling along the baseline and following up his initial shot to score. King’s added a second just before half-time when the alert Sam Grenfell took a quick free-hit to release Nick Wilson who made no mistake to grab his and King’s second goal. In the second half, Oliver Shera sealed victory with the third goal in the 36th minute. After a fine run by Kalpesh Morar, his pass found Braden Jerram whose initial shot was saved but he laid the ball across to Ollie Shera who made no mistake for a 3-0 success.
For the team, there were impressive displays by Kalpesh Morar, Aiden Fraser, Ben Goodwin and goalkeeper Nate Flacks, whilst the younger players Nick Langrell-Read, Braden Jerram, Ben Irvine and Ollie Shera showed that they will be players to watch.