The 2021 Flag Nationals produced two new champions and an unfortunate situation in the Women’s finals.
Since the Nationals were started as an “Invitational” event in 2019, where non-affiliated teams could enter, the number of men’s teams entered has grown from 5 to 14. And for the first time this year the Women’s and youth divisions were added with 7 and 4 teams respectively. This is a huge increase in the number of teams competing with 24 teams in total.
In the men’ championship second round, after initial pool play, the Tamaki Lightning and the Hamilton Hawks lined up against the Hawkes Bay Heat and The Wellington wolves. In the other pool the Nelson Honey Badgers and the South Auckland Raiders were pitted against the Metro Lions and the AFC Spitfires. After some close calls in one or two of the games the final four to compete the semifinals were:
Semi 1: Metro Lions v Tamaki Lightning
Semi 2 : Hawkes Bay Heat v Nelson Honey Badgers
The Heat vs the Honey Badgers was a re-run of one of last years semi finals. In that instance the game was a draw and the outcome needed to be determined by a countback. This year there was no need for that with the Heat narrowly beating the Honey Badgers by 1 point. The score this year being 21 to 20.
In the other semifinal, the Metro Lions were up against the 2020 Championship winner the Tamaki Lightning. Unfortunately, for the Lightning it was not going to be their year with the Lions making the better of the game with a 19 to 13 win.
The first half had both teams working hard on their defense and holding the other out. Metro managed to score and convert for a 7-point lead into half time. In the second half a defensive lapse by the heat allowed the Lions to score again and the lead extended. Getting inside the final two minutes the Lions scored once again but the Heat managed to get in one final play that allowed them to score and convert.
The Lions emerged victorious with a 21 to 8 win to become the 2021 NZ Flag National Champions.
The link to the SKY SPORT NEXT YouTube replays:
Men’s semifinal 1 - Metro v Lightning is here (no commentary).
Men’s semifinal 2 - Heat v Honey Badgers is here (no commentary).
Men’s Final - Hawkes Bay Heat v Metro Lions is here
For the first time we had a women’s division and it was great to see seven teams enter. Two from each of the Papatoetoe Wildcats, the South Auckland Raiders and the Metro Lions plus one team from the Tamaki Lightning.
After the initial round of play in two pools, one of three teams and one of four teams, the teams were ranked and the top four teams played semifinals while the three lower ranked teams played for positions.
Women’s semifinal 1: Raiders 2 v Wildcats Black
Women’s semifinals 2: Lionesses 2 v Lionesses 1
The Lionesses game produced a draw, 20 all, for evenly matched teams with the Lionesses 1 going through to the final.
In the other semi the Raiders proved too strong for the Wildcats winning 14 to 7.
Metro Lionesses 1
South Auckland Raiders 2
Unfortunately, both teams had brought in players from their other team for the finals and were therefore disqualified.
The results was that the inaugural trophy, and the gold and silver medals were not presented.
The Wildcats Black team were awarded the Bronze.
A disappointing ending to a great initial National Championship tournament for the women.
The Women’s Final match was streamed on SKY SPORT NEXT and can be found here.
The Youth division had four teams entered but one team had to withdraw on the final day which was unfortunate for the other teams they were to play off against that morning.
With the teams reduced to three it made the result for Bronze automatic with The Tamaki Lightning Youth being the team in that position.
The final was contested by the Hamilton Hawks Youth and the Hawks Bay Heat Youth teams.
The Hamilton Hawks just edging out the HB Heat 13 to 12 to become the inaugural NZ Flag Football Youth National Champions.
The link to the SKY SPORT NEXT YouTube replay of the Youth Finals – Hamilton Hawks v Hawkes Bay Heat is here.
We also need to recognize the efforts of the neutral referees who had a tremendously busy weekend attending to 70 matches across 5 fields. Without their efforts the games could not have been played and they deserve the thanks of all involved.
We also had a group of volunteers helping administer and run the tournament. What appearseasy is down to the hard work put in by these volunteers. A big thank you to those people as well.
Lastly to all the teams who came along to compete and to have fun. Yes - teams get serious but overall, the spirit was one of good sportsmanship and friendly rivalry. That makes this event one that members want to come back to each year.
Let’s hope everyone can make it again next year.
Well done everyone.