Red Devils fail to fire in Cecil Shield clash
There was a possible sense of bemusement among the Nelson Bays camp that yesterday's 36-14 Cecil Shield win over Marlborough was just a little too straightforward.
Not easy necessarily, and where representative rugby clashes between the two provinces are concerned, either team will gratefully take the win under any circumstances.
Still, there seemed a noticeable absence of Marlborough's customary forward intensity - scrummaging aside - as Nelson Bays were able to dictate large portions of the contest.
Until a scruffy and often patternless final quarter, Marlborough simply struggled to achieve any meaningful field position as Nelson Bays enjoyed ample possession and room to use it.
Nelson Bays eventually outscored Marlborough by five tries to two with winger Mitchell Scott and fullback Ben Tyler each scoring twice for the home side.
Halfback and astute first half general Shaun Begg added the other, while Marlborough winger Willie Umu accounted for both his team's tries.
Uncharacteristically passive at the clean-outs, Marlborough brought their expected competitiveness to the scrums where Nelson Bays' pack were under steady pressure during the first half. But even that began to turn in Nelson Bays' favour late in the contest. By then though, the game had lost much of its shape and flow.
Nelson Bays were well worth their 22-7 halftime advantage with Scott twice showing excellent individual skills in the lead-up to his tries. He displayed admiral restraint and control from a Kahu Tamatea cross-kick for his first, Scott volleying the ball ahead, kicking it again and winning the race over the line. His second involved individual strength close to the line after breaking through some woeful tackling from an attacking lineout to help push the home team to a 22-0 lead.
Scott's two tries book-ended a fine counter-attacking try to Begg, started by Tamatea inside Nelson Bays' half after a rare period of Marlborough attack and continued on by flanker Tone Ng Shiu before Begg received the final pass about 30m out.
Tyler scored his two tries within nine minutes of the restart as Nelson Bays threatened to take Marlborough apart after stretching to a 36-7 lead.
But Marlborough responded positively to deny Nelson Bays any further points, also enjoying extended periods of attack inside the opposition half.
Nelson Bays' coach Kahu Marfell was well satisfied with his team's winning effort, acknowledging that any success over Marlborough was always well received. And after absorbing some early scrum pressure, Nelson Bays eventually came to grips with their only major area of concern.
"We've been together for a couple of trainings and to be honest, we hadn't set a scrum so I was rapt with the boys how they managed to nut that out," Marfell said. "In the end, they got dominance over them I thought.
"It's always good to start off with a win but there's always plenty to work on . . . there's definitely some talent there, we've just got to come together once the teams have been named and climb into that South Island competition." Lock and captain Ben Coman shrugged off a couple of early handling errors to play a significant role in Nelson Bays' forward effort, also complementing locking partner Tevita Cavubati to provide some quality lineout ball. Ng Shiu, Pete Samu and Steve Soper formed an effective loose trio.
Hooker Jerome Vaai added some conspicuous second half impact off the bench both with his ball carrying and scrummaging, while substitute lock Jeff Lepa also used his impressive size effectively with some strong runs.
It was a tough day for the visitors, who never gave up trying, with prop Ross Geldenhuys, replacement hooker Francis Smith and tryscorer Unu to the fore. Replacement halfback Ben Finau added some spark late in the piece, while open side loosie Stephen Uren managed a couple of first half turnovers.
Set pieces were a concern, the scrum coming under pressure in the latter stages and lineout overthrows proving costly.
Marlborough coach Mark Stewart was disappointed with his side's efforts. "We got killed at the breakdown really. We couldn't get anything going . . . we thought we would score off two or three phases, instead of drawing defenders in, then letting [the ball] go. There was some good things, but there was some bad stuff too.
"Two or three players stood out, but right across the board we probably let ourselves down a bit. Nelson played with a bit more fizz than us. They really attacked the breakdown - that was the key area."
A new squad will be named for the Red Devils' South Island campaign.
SCORERS Nelson Bays 36 (Mitchell Scott 2, Ben Tyler 2, Shaun Begg tries, Kahu Tamatea 4 cons, pen) Marlborough 14 (Willie Umu 2 tries, Brandyn Laursen 2 cons) Ht 22-7. -