2023 Junior State Championships Wrap-Up

Pride Too Sharp For Invitational in U13 Boys Final

A first half clinic by the Southern Pride, led by ace Legend Koro-Hikawera, have delivered the U13 Boys State Championship title back to the red and yellow for the second year in a row.

The Invitational came out of the blocks hard, and looked dangerous after Walter Mahia made a 40 metre scamper and put them right on the Pride try line. But the attack came apart and off the scrum young Legend made his impact known. Receiving a nice pass from Jacob Smith, Legend bounced out of two tackles and was too quick for the cover defence as he went the whole length of the field to put the Pride up 6-0.

After the initial shock, the next 10 minutes would be a back and forth contest with young tyros Oscar Sio, Kohbe Dillon and Whetu Mahaki making inroads for the Invitational side, only to be met time and time again by multiple Pride defenders. But it wasn’t to stay that way, with Tyson Lilli and Tahae Black going over to make it 14-0 at halftime.

And the halftime break didn’t ease the pressure from the pride, as Phenyx Murray, Blaise Stewart and Leevie Koro-Hikawera all got in on the action to put the Pride in front, with the final score at 26-0. A well deserved win from the Pride, who adjusted well and learnt alot from their loss to the Invitational team on Friday.

For Invitational, they were the big surprise packet at this tournament with some great wins and brilliant footy, let by amazing young captain Levi Herbet, who while short in stature is as tough and willing as they come and was literally in everything. Constantly barking at his team mates, he really tried every second the clock was ticking.

Fusion Too Classy For Brave Dolphins In U15 Girls Final

A very strong Fusion side were too classy for a brave Dolphins team. In a game that most people had already chalked up as a win for the team in green, a never say die attitude and belief over the weekend made for a great grand final.

It was the Dolphins who came out of the blocks hard, with superstar Caitlin Loader leading the way. The devastating forward in the number 8 for the Dolphins was a shining light, as she tormented the Fusion defence with some huge runs and didn’t take a backward step.

In a back and forth start, where the Dolphins had some of the better running, it took 13 minutes for the Fusion to break the deadlock, and they can consider themselves a bit lucky, with Kalissa Moon going in in the corner to give the fusion the lead. And from there the Fusion girls really kicked into gear. Quick tries to Terina Te Tana, Bella Houghton and Teaina Mainwaring gave the Fusion an 18-0 lead at halftime and a long way back for the Dolphins girls.

But the halftime break showed some reinvigorated Dolphins throw everything they could at the Fusion. Off the back of some big running from Hinemanu Tutaki and Kaitlin Bavadra, they hit the scoreboard first with Bailey Vasukicakau showing some great speed and determination to get over the line. But the Fusion would not be denied with Lelani Tongi-Finau and Houghton scoring to put the game out of reach.

Full credit to the Dolphins who never gave up, with Tutaki getting a deserved try. A much improved game from them with Hinewai Thomas and Mere Haerewa really showing their class. But the Dolphins would not be denied with some huge performances from half Te Tana, and captain Bella Houghton. Ably supported by lock Palace Koia and utility Mainwaring, they would not be denied and are deserved champions.


Dolphins Put The Hammer Down in First Class Performance Over Fusion In U15 Boys

Led by some magic performances from captains Tamarau Haimona and Justicce Heta, the Dolphins put the foot down in the grand final to run over the Northern Fusion, who probably played their best football the day before in a scintilating double extra time contest against the Southern Pride.

Again it looked like the Fusion might start the better, with Jahziah Niwa-Siolo, James Aleni and Nick Van Den Ham really piling on the pressure with some big runs, and a couple of unforced errors from the Dolphins giving the Fusion some great field position.

But after some strong defence from the Dolphins, they ended up with their first chance with field position and they made no mistake. With Haimona throwing a beautiful double cut out pass, he hit winger Kasey Reweti on the chest to open the scoring. And they caught fire, with Tyrese Flood getting a magical offload away for Heta, who put on the afterburners to run around the cover defence and make it 8-0. With follow up tries to Taimana Hurihanganui and Ben Cottam, at 20-0, the Fusion needed to show some life.

Sure enough, the Fusion did turn up, with Van Den Ham showing some smart awareness with a blindside raid, to put young Kyron Arthy away for the Fusion’s first try. But with the seconds ticking away till half time, Taniela Te Rauna stole a try from dummy half for the Dolphins, and with the halftime score at 24-4 it might have take all the wind out of the Fusion sails.

After halftime the Fusion muscled up in the middle of the field in defence, but just couldn’t find their way through when they had the ball. And when Hurihanganui scored a long range try, the nail was in the coffin for the Fusion, with Ariki Whitlock-Walker putting the icing on the cake for the Dolphins in a complete performance. The Fusion can still hold their heads high, with captain Tom Sinclair showing his quality and Nathanial Paora leading the way with some tough carries throughout the game.