The Columba College touch team is feeling confident about the touch season after competing in a tournament in Australia.
Coached by Dayna and PJ Turnbull, the team was one of five international teams to compete in the five-day tournament earlier in the month, which attracted 62 teams in total.
Teams were split into eight pools and played two games a day. Due to the warm weather, games were 25 minutes long with no halftime, rather than 20-minute halves.
Dayna Turnbull said it meant team talks had to take place during the game when players had subbed off, which had its difficulties.
“We discussed with the girls how we would work through that and when they came off they had to try and group up, grab their drink bottles and listen to what we had to tell them.
“They were pretty good with it. They’re a great bunch of girls and they love to learn but it wasn’t exactly easy not being able to tell them as a group.”
Game times were not the only challenge for the teams. The ever-changing weather meant they were playing in 32degC one day and waiting for lightning and rain to pass the next.
Despite this, the team won its first four games convincingly but was challenged when it came up against the defending champion team in its fifth game.
The score was even for most of the game until the final minute.
“It was five-all with about 45 seconds to play and then they scored on their last touch.
“Then it was our ball and we had about 20 seconds from tap-off and, unfortunately, we didn’t score in that 20 seconds, because we only had about two touches.”
The team won its remaining pool games, finishing second and advancing into the top 16.
Hamilton Girls’ High School, the top New Zealand secondary schoolgirls’ team, which it lost 6-4.
“It was a really good game and the girls were awesome. They played like a champion team.”
The only two teams Columba lost to during the tournament made the final, an achievement the team was proud of.
“We were pretty rapt with the way we had performed throughout the tournament.
“The girls have developed into a really unique wee team. The improvement that we have seen over the past four months has been incredible.”
The team was now looking towards the New Zealand tournament in December and hoped to back up last year’s second-place performance.
“Playing that Hamilton Girls’ team will build up our girls’ confidence quite a bit, knowing that they can definitely compete at that level.
“Last year, Hamilton Girls’ didn’t even know who we were and this year they were worried to play us.
“They don’t just consider us a little South Island team any more; they definitely think we are one of the top teams at nationals, which gives the girls a lot of confidence.”
Turnbull thanked the team’s sponsors and managers and the players’ parents.