For the first time in the history of the Picton Picnic tournament, two Waikanae teams fought out a thrilling and tense final that belied the casual nature of the tournament. Three times winners Saints met first time finalists Jets in the Sunday final after both teams emerged unbeaten from pool play the previous day.
Saints made it five from five in pool play defeating both 2019 finalist teams from Stokes Valley along the way, scoring 18 goals while conceding only two. Boosted by First team players Taylor Newman, Logan Bly, Rory McGrath and Tobi Cerhak, the Saints were always going to be a class outfit with strength in all positions across the field. Westport were the only team to threaten Saints on the table with Saints handing them their sole defeat.
The Jets showed the benefit of their season in HK Div 1 with a lift in standard from previous years showings. A first up 1-1 draw with a tough Hutt Trash side hinted that this could be their year and they followed up with three comfortable victories before meeting an unbeaten Paekakariki in the final pool match of the day. Both unbeaten teams fought out a 1-1 draw with Paekakariki equalising with minutes to go as the Jets battled a draw that saw them play their final three pool games back to back. The draw, however, was enough to see Jets progress to the final on goal difference. Keeper Luke Morgan conceding only two goals while the Jets scored 15.
With the Saints favourites on paper the Sunday final kicked off in light rain with steady northerly favouring the Jets in the first half. Play ebbed and flowed between the teams before an attack up the left saw Waikanae’s 2019 ‘Golden Boot’ Ryan Leyten beat defenders in the box and slot the ball wide of the keeper to break the deadlock and give the Jets a 1-0 lead which they took into half time.
From that point the intensity lifted a couple of notches and the game became a tense and physical encounter in the best tradition of a true derby match. Neither team gave any quarter but with the wind at their back and a strong bench Saints began to edge ahead on territory and possession. The unfortunate loss of Jets defender Jade Henley McLeod to injury did not help the Jets cause and Saints were able to equalise through an Alan Collings volley. Just as it looked like the game could go to a penalty shoot-out Caleb Redstall made certain of the win for the Saints. The Jets fought hard to the final whistle but the Saints held on 2-1 to record their third tournament win to follow victories in 2016 and 2018.
For the Saints their defensive line of Taylor Newman, Adam Price and Marcelo Amaya held firm while for the Jets the Cooper twins, Mike and Richie, had strong games in midfield igniting many Jets attacks and more than matching their opponents. Both keepers, Tobi Cerhak for Saints and Luke Morgan for Jets, had an outstanding tournament.
The tournament was the senior football swansong for the 2020 winter season but for quite a few there will be little time to recover as the summer twilight football season kicks off on Thursday 15th October at Jim Cooke.