On a sporting weekend when the All Blacks suffered their first-ever loss in World Cup pool play, the Warriors went down to the Panthers in their NRL qualifying final and Te Awamutu born boxer Floyd Masson lost his IBO World Cruiserweight title, a Te Awamutu team achieved something “bloody amazing” on the world stage.
The Te Awamutu Sports Junior Rugby tour team, playing as the tournament’s New Zealand side, were crowned the winners of the Ovalive Tournament Terroirs of the World 2023 in Provence, France.
Run in Maussane-les-Alpilles, the U12s tournament is held every four years – 2023 was the first time it has been open to international sides.
Essentially the “junior rugby world cup”, the Te Awamutu side went undefeated throughout.
The tournament ran last Friday and Saturday, with 18-minute games held due to temperatures above 30 degrees celsius.
With scores measured in the overall number of tries, the Te Awamutu side won its pool play matches four tries to two over France, 16-0 against England and 12-2 against Spain.
Then, in the semifinal, Te Awamutu Sports beat Monaco 9-0, before downing Ireland 5-2 in the final.
All told, the side – coached by Kane Osborne and Andrew Christie – scored nearly 50 tries during the tournament.
The group fundraised $80,000 since November to attend, and speaking from France on Tuesday, Te Awamutu Sports Junior Rugby president and tour manager Nick Gold described the winning feeling as “pretty phenomenal”.
Alongside the coaches and Gold, Ange Gower and Larn Berge have been helping manage the team.
“It’s been a long journey. The boys put their heart and soul into each and every game.
“When it takes almost a year to get somewhere and you’re all working towards a goal – and then you get there in the end – it’s a pretty big relief.
“It’s been an amazing tour and all the management and staff are so proud of the boys.”
“It’s also been a team effort from the whole of Te Awamutu to get our boys over here we appreciate each and every person who helped us do so.”
With the team due to begin its 24 hours of flying time home yesterday, two joint players of the tournament have been named, as well as a recipient of what’s called the TA mana award, given to the player who exemplified team values both on and off the field.
The joint players of the tournament were Hosea Heke and Kain Berge and the TA Mana award went to Brax Legg.
Gold said the response from back home in Te Awamutu since word got out of the side’s win had already been fantastic.
“Our phones haven’t stopped really,” he smiled.
“The boys knew there was a bit of pressure to perform, and they took that seriously.
So, they’re pretty happy they can bring back the trophy and make people proud.”
Meanwhile, Gold said the future is already in mind.
“Hopefully, all things going well and fingers crossed, we’d love to come back here in four years’ time and do it all again.”