The Nelson Marlborough Falcons celebrate after hearing they won the ASB Youth League after playing their game against Team Wellington at Memorial Park in Petone on Sunday. Photo: Dave Lintott.

Falcons win national youth league

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The Nelson Marlborough Falcons are the ASB Youth League champions, after they defeated Team Wellington in Petone 5-1 and Waitakere United drew 2-2 with Auckland City in Sunday’s final round.

Although the Falcons and Waitakere United shared first place going into Sunday’s league-deciding round, Waitakere were the virtual leaders because of their superior goal differential. But the goal differential became academic when the Falcons cruised past Wellington and then Auckland City denied Waitakere a win and, effectively, the championship.

Falcons coach, Mark Johnston, says the win was a highlight of his three-year involvement with the team. It was also a fitting send off for three of the team’s senior players, Coey Turipa, Harry Tod-Smith and Josh Sansom, who were all playing their final game for the Falcons.

“It’s a real tribute to these guys and it’s great they finished on a high note,” Mark says.

However, Mark says they all had to wait “an eternity” before Falcons board member, Francis Miccio, informed them that they had won the championship.

“Francis was on the phone to his brother Aldo who was at the game in Auckland. Francis said there was only a minute to play but it was actually five minutes and even that seemed more like half an hour – then he came over with a smile on his face and we knew we’d won.”

Mark says Sunday’s performance was clinical with Sam Ayers putting his team up 1-0 after seven minutes.

Kevin Obed scored to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead at half time and then Sam, Carl Connor-McClean and Josh Moffat scored after the interval.

“Our last four or five games were easily our best and we just continued that on Sunday,” Mark says.

However, Mark admits the season wasn’t all plain sailing. After making a great start and being five from five, the team “hit two serious road bumps” and it required some serious soul searching to get back on track.

“We didn’t change a lot. We just had some very honest discussions and to their credit the players responded.”

Mark says the team also benefited from “great support” from their supporters.

“I’ve been around football here for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this. The support has been amazing and it’s made a huge difference to the team.”

The Nelson Marlborough Falcons finished the league on 27 points, two ahead of Waitakere United. Canterbury United was third.