Stankovich hits late penalty to secure rare win for New Zealand

They're best friends and team-mates and they have been instrumental in helping New Zealand claim a rare win at the men's World Youth Water Polo Championships in Montenegro.

After losses to Croatia, Serbia and the USA, the under-18 New Zealand side wrapped up the preliminary stage of the championships with a thrilling 13-12 win against China on Wednesday morning (New Zealand time).

With the scores locked at 12-12 inside the final two minutes, Waitakere goalkeeper Chris Downie made a crucial one-on-one save to deny China the lead, before fellow west Aucklander Nick Stankovich fired home the winner courtesy of a penalty moments later.

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Best mates Downie, Stankovich and Troy Amstrong first played together in 2010 as part of the Glen Eden Intermediate boys team and are now crucial members of team New Zealand.

In their fourth match of the tournament, New Zealand led by as much as four earlier in the match as the kiwis jumped out to a 5-1 lead late in the first quarter.

However, China clawed their way back into the match, only for Stankovich to have the last say.

"We started quickly and had a good lead at end of the first," says assistant coach Davor Carevic.

"We then dropped to their level and had too many missed shots. We gave them too many goals – something we will pay attention to against [our next opponent] Kazakhstan."

New Zealand is now playing off for 13th to 19th place. Their game against Kazakhstan is at 10.40pm on Wednesday night. 

New Zealand is hosting the women's youth world championships in Auckland later this year.


This story originally appeared on Stuff.

Zach MonkUnder 18, NZ Reps, 2016