Whanganui was poised to finish in the top two of their pool at the New Zealand Association U18 Hockey Tournament in Pukekohe yesterday afternoon.
The Whanganui men needed a win or draw against Manawatu in the final game of pool play late yesterday.
Coach, former Black Stick Robbie Matthews said the lads were playing well enough to figure in the upcoming semifinals."Our first game on Monday we played Bay of Plenty who we hadn't played before tournament and it was an end to end game at a very fast pace," Matthews said.
"Bay of Plenty, unfortunately scored in the last two minutes through a penalty corner to make it a 4-3 loss for us. Goals scorers were Tony Gilbertson, Travis Bayler and James Craig. All were field goals and these three boys were standout players for Whanganui along with Ben Havord and Daniel Taylor in defence.
"Goal keeper Jakebe Armstrong made some solid saves and unfortunately was involved in a clash with a Bay of Plenty attacker, but played on.
"Tuesday's game against Hawke's Bay was a must-win game to stay in the running for top of the pool finish. We were on attack from the start with some outstanding leading from the attackers and solid passing from midfield play. We scored early with a goal from James Craig. Tony Gilbertson, who is in outstanding form, found the back of the net again with a well worked dribble into the circle and a bullet reverse shot finding the keeper wanting.
"Hawke's Bay scored in the third quarter to keep us honest and soon after a pass from the defence found Craig in the circle where he dragged around the goalie and slotted his second goal for the game."
Matthews said standout players were Xavier Andrews and Finn Murphy who worked tirelessly in the midfield and Jack Norman and Hamish Beilby solid in defence.
"Man of the match for us was the ever-consistent Tony Gilbertson followed by James Craig who's slotting some great goals."