Hastings Boys' High School won the third-tier Mayhill Cup national secondary schools hockey tournament in Stratford, Taranaki, last week.
The tournament started with a 9-0 thumping of an under-par St Peters 1st XI from Cambridge in treacherous conditions with rain lashing sideways but Manu Henderson and Dylan Thomas both netted hat-tricks.
With two must-win pool games on their mind to take them through to the next round with a good crossover, HBHS beat Heretaunga 3-0 in the morning before the 1-0 win against top group seeds Wanganui Collegiate.
HBHS had more possession but failed to convert chances although the umpire disallowed a Hastings goal midway through the second half for a tense finish. With seconds remaining Hastings pushed forward and slotted a goal past the Wanganui keeper.
That took HBHS into the top-eight playoffs with a quarter-final crossover match against fellow Hawke's Bay team Lindisfarne College.
Having beaten Lindisfarne four times in the Bay competition this year, Hastings were determined not to let that record slide and slotted two goals past Lindisfarne.
However, Lindisfarne were the first team to test the Hastings defence. Alex Withington made only his second save of the tournament in the fourth game as HBHS had not conceded a goal at that stage of the tourney.
Good weather came in the semifinal against ACG Strathallan, of Auckland, who looked strong defensively boasting Counties-Manukau under-18 and under-15 players.
HBHS went 1-0 up early from an Alex Francis penalty corner but dominated possession and territory while some tactically astute hockey had kept Strathallan inside their own half. Just after halftime Strathallan equalised 1-1 when they conceded a penalty corner.
With minutes to go Hastings had a penalty-corner goal disallowed. HBHS coaches had a live video feed into the dugout which added to the frustration as the game headed to the penalty stroke.
Cool-headed keeper Withington prevailed, making three saves. Josh Wray, Dylan Thomas and Francis converted to ensure HBHS would gain promotion to the India Shield in 2013 after having finished third on previous occasions.
Passion, style and attacking flare prevailed in the final against familiar foes Wanganui. Thomas and Liam Sykes scored a goal each for HBHS to become champions in an excellent tournament that saw our team concede one goal, from set play, in the tourney.
The India Shield campaign next year looks promising as HBHS will not lose any players from the 1st XI squad.