Hastings Boys' High School's team have again finished runners-up at the annual Super 8 Central North Island tournament for boys, which Tauranga Boys' College hosted.
HBHS, who made the final in last year's tournament, displayed an outstanding team effort as all players made major contributions over three days.
In pool play, HBHS recorded two victories on day one - 74-62 against Napier Boys' High School and 71-64 Tauranga Boys' College - despite trailing by three points with three minutes to go.
Despite losing the third pool game against Hamilton Boys' High School, (Hamilton had six fresh players), HBHS still qualified top of the pool.
HBHS beat Palmerston North Boys' High School 56-49 in a physical encounter, setting up a repeat of the 2011 final against New Plymouth Boys' High School.
The final became a taller order for HBHS after five minutes when pivotal player and captain Ravi Mani (last year's MVP) was injured.
HBHS were down by three points with two minutes remaining but succumbed by 10 points at the final whistle.
Mani and Ramiha Smiler made the All-Tournament team and hopes remain high for the premiership qualifying tournament team.
Mani is finished for the year with a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon.
The team comprised Mani, Smiler, Tiemi Amner, Hamiora Kennedy, Logan Nikora, Shayden King-Edwards, Soul Sadler, Matt Bird, Bodie Smiler, Mataeus Marsh and Michael Stirling.
This was to be the last of seven games in five days that the HBHS 1st XI hockey team were scheduled to play.
In the previous four days Hastings had played top club team Akina Rovers HC 1st XI in the HBH men's club premier grade followed by five hard games against many of the country's top schools at the Super 8 tournament held in Tauranga, where they finished fifth.
With Taradale third in the HBH boys' division 1 table and Hastings top of the league, this had all the hallmarks of a difficult game.
Tiredness was definitely going to be a factor as the game went on so the focus for HBHS was on moving the ball rather than moving with the ball.
They made few unforced errors in a concentrated performance which made for a great result given the number of games played in a short space of time.
While HBHS had most of the possession, territory and chances, Taradale were a threat on counter attack but HBHS prevailed 4-1.
Central Districts Under-21 striker Regan Hughes scored Taradale's consolation goal.
All of the seven games that HBHS had been involved in were played without two of their senior players - Central Districts Under-21 forward Dylan Thomas and goalkeeper Alex Withington. That meant several younger players had to step up.
The HBHS Hockey Academy programme has definitely helped with the boys' accelerated technical and tactical development and has clearly improved their levels of fitness in preparation for their national tournament.
- Dean Hulls, HBHS director of hockey
The final game for Hastings Boys' High School's 1st XV rugby side completed a season of extreme highs and lows.
Defeating the 2012 Super 8 Champions Hamilton Boys High School 15-14 demonstrated the potential the side had all year. The season started with a display of uncompromising defence against a powerful Wellington College 1st XV side winning 29-22.
This was followed during the year with good wins against Fielding High School, Lindisfarne College and Rosmini College.
The death of one of the team's players was a shock for the entire school but the side showed resilience and determination to lift for each Super 8 game and give their best effort, even without reward.
The final performance and victory was an accolade to the players' mental toughness and training ethic.
The HBHS side were tenacious at the breakdown, turning the ball over frequently by counter rucking and harassing a far larger Hamilton side.
Even after Hamilton scored a try and went 7-0 up, the HBHS team dug deep and hit back immediately with a try by prop Jarome Box after some aggressive pick and drives by the tireless Hastings forward pack.
This was followed five minutes later by another try to Jules Janson who took the ball from a short lineout, fended off the inside centre and skilfully stepped in and out of the fullback's tackle before he was driven over the line by his fellow loose forward Sean Watts. This took HBHS to a 12-7 lead.
Hamilton started to take the ascendancy for the rest of the half and, relying on trust and communication and grom defence, HBHS held on until the last five minutes in the half.
Hamilton scored in the corner after a number of attacking phases and converted the try to secure a 14-12 halftime lead.
After the halftime break even the weather started to favour HBHS as the wind got stronger and helped pin Hamilton in their own half.
HBHS starved the opposition of the ball and played a very direct confrontational style of play sticking to the patterns of play which were worked on during the previous week's trainings.
Each of the substitutions added impact to the game and after continuous pressure, Hamilton conceded a number of penalties.
Fortunately, Joshua Foster managed to kick one of these and take the score to 15-14.
HBHS hung on to the narrow lead throughout the half, with excellent pressure from the kick chase and ferocious tackling. The trust players showed in each other and their sheer determination to win the game was a tribute to the character of the players and side who have suffered numerous injuries in recent weeks and, of course, the death of a teammate earlier in the year.
Lock Gabriel Papuni captained the side and led from the front with his high workrate and frequently stealing ball in the lineout.
The victory was an excellent farewell to the year 13 students and a challenge to the nine returning players.
Throughout the game calls of "last play" and "Sommjeh" could be heard from every team member on the paddock, as they played every minute of the game as if it were their last and also for their fallen teammate.
This was also the first victory over Hamilton since a 29-16 win in 2004.