SINGAPORE - For 48 minutes on Friday (March 29), St Andrew's Secondary School and Victoria School could not find a way past one another in the Schools National B Division boys' hockey final at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
But a mistake by Victoria's Tristan So 12 minutes from time proved crucial, as the Saints scored soon after for a 1-0 win.
Tristan was sent off early in the final quarter for tripping a player with his stick, and the Saints made their numerical advantage count with Kyan Lim netting the winning goal in the next minute from open play.
A delighted Kyan, 16, said: "All of us trained very hard for this and it's definitely a final to remember because most of us are in our last year.
"At first, we were a bit shaky because we lacked communication but, after that, we started to talk (to each other) and, since it's our last game, we were all motivated to play well, too."
Saints coach Paramjit Singh said: "Victoria were looking for the passing lanes so I told my boys to shut down the lanes so that the opponents can't come out.
"I also told them to keep following the game plan and to be patient."
Chances were hard to come by in the tense match, with the defences of both teams repelling anything that threatened to break through their lines.
Victoria had a golden chance to break the deadlock towards the end of the third period but spurned a one-on-one opportunity.
The miss proved critical as the Saints netted the winning goal early in the next period.
Victoria went all out to find the equaliser in the final minutes but just could not crack the focused Saints defence.
At the final whistle, the Saints players could not hide their joy while the defeated Victoria boys fell to the ground in tears.
A teary-eyed Victoria vice-captain, Kiran Rajlingam, 15, said after the match: "We trained so hard over the past year because the year before, we were knocked out in the quarter-finals but, this year, we made it to the final.
"Even though we lost, we played our hearts out and had good team spirit."
Victoria coach Nordin Manaff was also proud of the team for getting to the final.
"Their team spirit was second to none. They were giving their best and, after the game, you can really see their passion.
"I think the experience of being in the final is different and the boys lacked composure and panicked a bit during the match."
The Saints finished fourth last year, while Victoria were knocked out in the quarter-finals.