Last year’s New Zealand Champions, Westlake 1st XI Hockey, headed to Wellington with high expectations for the 2016 Rankin Cup, despite a mediocre season in the North Harbour and Auckland competitions. As a result of coming out on top the previous year, the team was seeded number one and found themselves in a challenging pool with top Otago side Kings High School.
The first pool game against Timaru Boys High School was a tough one for both sides, as both needed to start the week well. However, Westlake took their opportunities throughout the match finishing as 2-1 victors at full time. The match against Kings High School proved to be the telling blow for the week. The result was a well fought 1-1 draw, but it was also a game of missed opportunities. Westlake needed a big win in their final pool match to finish first in the pool and secure an ‘easier’ draw. The 6-0 victory against Rathekeale College proved not enough, and the side finished second, placing them against hosts, Wellington College, in the crossover 16 game.
Wellington College were a very good side who came out strong, leading 4-1 at half time. Through sturdy play, Westlake managed to narrow the gap to 4-3 and with 10 minutes left on the clock, pulled their goalkeeper to apply more pressure. Despite the added pressure and four solid scoring opportunities, the team could not capitalise and were now playing off for 9th-16th place.
Annual opponents, Tauranga Boys College, were the next crossover game with the season results being equally shared. In a difficult match for both teams, one of the young Tauranga players took advantage of an opportunity and scored the goal of his life to seal a 1-0 win for his team.
Despite their disappointment, the Westlake side rallied strongly to play St Kentigern College and, on a flooded pitch, defeated their opponents 1-0. The final match of the Rankin Cup campaign was against rivals Hamilton Boys High School. Hamilton started strong and were quickly ahead before Westlake played some ‘real hockey’ in the second half to make a game of it. Despite losing the match, the team’s performance, particularly in the second half, was commendable.
The side finished a disappointing 14th place in New Zealand and although many other schools would be very happy with this result, it’s a learning curve for Westlake and an opportunity to reflect on what could have been.