The Ray White Whanganui Year 7 team proved their December victory over their Year 8 provincial mates was a sign of things to come as they completed an excellent week at the Hawke's Bay Cricket Camp in Napier.
Wanganui's Year 8's had a couple of wins at the previous Hawke's Bay tournament, but the talented younger side was dominant – beating Auckland Universities XI, Hutt Valley, Napier Tech and the Morrinsville Piako Stormers, while only losing to Western Bay of Plenty in the final over.
Spokesman Tim Hocquard said the squad of 12 was battle-hardened, with eight of them coming from the successful Huntley School team, who had just finished second in the national primary school championships, with the remainder being the most talented youngsters from the Fordell and Wanganui East schools.
Wanganui started against Auckland Universities in 35-over match at Marewa Park last Wednesday, with the Aucklanders ticking their innings over nicely at 85-3 before Levi Hoekstra got amongst them to break up the key 50-run partnership.
Harry McVerry chimed in for another two wickets and then a devastating spell from fast bowler Henry Blackley cleaned up the tail to dismiss Auckland for 131 with seven overs remaining.
There was some outstanding wicket keeping from Bradley Hanegraaf, who also tidied up a couple of runouts.
Wanganui openers Blackley and Angus Pearce (32) briskly set about chasing the target, before some smart fielding saw Wanganui lose five quick wickets.
However, eventual tournament MVP Matthew Hocquard (44 not out) and Levi Hoekstra (18no) steadied the ship and brought home the winning runs with seven overs and five wickets remaining, while Blackley was named man of the match.
Next up on the Thursday morning, Western Bay of Plenty won the toss and put Wanganui into bat for the 30 over game.
A partnership of 60 between Hocquard (50no) and Monty Sherriff (25) made up for the loss of early wickets, while some very useful contributions in the tail from fast bowler Charlie Meredith (21) and the talented Rory Trotter saw Wanganui to a defendable 164-6.
Fired up, Wanganui started well with a stunning run out in the first over thanks to the skills of Pearce and Hanegraaf, but then the 30 degree heat and lack of sleep after their prior travelling got the better of the fielding side.
McVerry picked up two more wickets, as did Taihape's fast bowler Jonty Thomson, although Wanganui frowned with WBOP chose to 'retire' pinned down batsmen to bring on others and lift their run rate.
Sherriff bowled fast and accurate, while he and Angus Pearse were strong in the field, however WBOP made the winning runs with two wickets and two balls to spare.
Newcomer Thomson's first wickets and Hanegraaf's keeping were highlights, while Hocquard was player of the day for his half century.
Wanganui had a quick turnaround to take on the fancied Hutt Valley side that afternoon, and although Hutt Valley started well with the bat, Trotter and Hocquard got amongst them with an identical 2-11 from four overs each.
Again, Pearce and Hanegraaf proved a lethal fielding combination to make run outs, Hocquard also hit the stumps and got a catch, while Sherriff threw the stumps down for a screamer.
Initially looking at a huge score, Valley closed out at 152-8 from their 30 overs and Wanganui kept the momentum going with the bat.
Despite losing big-hitting Hoekstra early, Blackley (21) and player of the day Trotter (22) steadied the ship and set a good platform.
Reliable partners Hocquard (41no) and Sherriff (25no) then brought the game home with five wickets and eight overs to spare.
Napier Tech were another strong team on paper come Day 3, and let the Wanganui batsmen know it with some not-too-subtle sledging.
However, Wanganui stayed cool, with Sherriff (35) leading the way as scores in the 20's from Pearce, Hocquard, and Lachlan Gardner put Wanganui up to 156-7 from their 30 overs.
Eager to turn the blow torch the other way, Wanganui could not have had a better start in the field as the first ball saw a direct hit run out from Hoekstra to remove one of Napier's danger boys.
Two balls later, Blackley had bowled another, and after the sustained fast bowling, Trotter came on with his spinners and picked up two more wickets.
From there it was a procession and Napier Tech were bowled out for 70, with Sherriff picking up player of the day for a good allrounder's match.
The last game of the tournament with Morrinsville Piako Stormers saw the temperatures finally dropped back into the lower 20's, which helped Wanganui find their second wind.
Winning the toss and batting, Wanganui initially struggled against some accurate bowling, being 5-2 after eight overs.
However, the big three batsmen hit their straps again despite the now bowler-friendly conditions, as Pearce (23 ), Hocquard (38) and Sherriff (23) did the ground work before Thomson, Hoekstra and Meredith picked up some priceless runs at the death to complete the salvage job at 142-9.
Charlie Meredith bowled tight while McVerry was accurate as Morrinsville Piako collapsed to 16-4 and never recovered, with most of the 10 wickets spread around each bowler.
Tim Hocquard said bowling economy was probably of the highest standard for the tournament and the fielding was exceptional, putting the other sides under pressure in each game.
William Hocquard did the umpiring for the five games, with some help from his assistant Oscar McVerry, and was able to pass on several tips on techniques as the side improved as the week went on.
Cricket Wanganui's Dilan Raj was delighted with the "outstanding" results and was looking forward to working with this crop of players as they advance through the grades.