With some notable past winners no longer eligible for play and several ruled out by COVID travel restrictions, the Burnside U26 Singles remained anyone’s for the taking as 32 of the country’s top young talents converged in Christchurch.
Taking his opportunity to build on last year’s semi-finals loss, the former national secondary school champion and Bay of Plenty intercentre representative Anthony Ouellet was in fine touch to secure the silverware and round out a memorable win opposite host club favourite Richard Hocking.
In fact, such was the form of Ouellet, the 20-year-old put a stop to Hocking’s perfect record, handing the Burnside player his only defeat of the event following a nine-game unbeaten streak through to the final.
After seven games of section play, the top eight emerged with the top two qualifiers in each section advancing through to the main event. Section qualifiers comprised James Collier (Rangiora), Jesse Russell (Cambridge Central), Aidan Zittersteijn (Paritutu), Bradley Down (Plimmerton), Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley), Jonty Horwell (Kaikorai), along with Hocking and Ouellet.
The final saw both form players trading shots throughout, with the scores locked at 16-a piece in the race to 21. A clinical finish saw Ouellet claim a single shot on the 19th end, before closing the match out with a full count to claim the 2021 title, 21-16.
Commenting on the win, Ouellet described his efforts as consistent, putting on a strong performance throughout the weekend.
“It felt like a dream getting a four to finish such a close and great final against Richard. This tournament is always a highlight of the season and to win it is an honour considering some of the names that are on that trophy,” he beamed.
“If you’re playing consistently then you’ll usually do well, so overall I’m pleased with my performance. In singles, it’s always important to take your time and capitalise on the opportunities.”
The win saw Ouellet pocket the $1000 winners’ cheque, with Hocking collecting $500 for runner-up and the beaten semi-finalists, $300.
In earlier post-section fixtures, Hocking defeated Russell 21-11, while Ouellet won a thrilling hitout opposite Curtin, 21-15.
In other results, last year’s winner Taylor Horn fell at the final hurdle in Division 2, with Marlborough’s Chase Bishop coasting to a 21-7 victory, Dunedin’s Keanu Darby edging a close fixture opposite South Canterbury’s Tom Taiaroa in Division 3 and Kaikorai’s Mitchell Scott defeating Woolston Park’s Dylan Campbell to round out Division 4.
Ouellet will now turn his attention to representative commitments with the Bay of Plenty, before gearing up for what he hopes will be another promising showing at the Summerset National Singles and Pairs in Christchurch in January.