Marlborough wins Press Cup
The Press Cup has finally come to Marlborough.
After being beaten in the 2006 and 2008 finals, the King Salmon Marlborough Boys' College first XV made no mistake at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim this afternoon, downing Nelson College 15-11 in an enthralling final.
This battle wasn't for the fainthearted. MBC, facing a howling southerly and driving rain in the first spell, kept the ball in hand, driving forward through their "big boppers" skipper Atu Moli, fellow prop Bevan Moody and number eight Sokepe Lopeti. When the ball was turned over Nelson, mainly through skipper Mitchell Hunt and halfback Reece Fuller, kicked long and tried to force a mistake.
After 12 minutes their tactics paid dividends when second five eighth Finn Hart-Strawbridge landed a penalty from a handy position.
But the home side responded immediately, setting up a series of pick and goes close to the Nelson line. Initially repelled, their patience was rewarded on the 26 minute mark when MBC first five TC Campbell sold a dummy and sprinted 20m on the angle for the first try which Mitchell Smith converted to the delight of a very vocal crowd of around 2000. Nelson replied with a second penalty to Hart-Strawbridge from the restart and the sides went the the break with MBC ahead 7-6.
A Smith penalty from 27m in front after five minutes stretched MBC's lead to four before Moli, my man of the match, capped a period of concerted pressure on the Nelson line with an unstoppable drive from two metres. The conversion was missed but MBC led 15-6 and had one hand on the trophy.
But Nelson were not done for. Through hard working frontrowers Miro Mitchell and Brendan Asamua-Goodman they took the fight to the home side, mounting wave after wave of attack. Urged on by the crowd, MBC defended superbly, twice forcing knock-ons on the line. But eventually the pressure told when Fuller scored with 1 minute 50 seconds remaining. Nelson's conversion was charged down, but the margin was back to four and the game was back on.
MBC made an error from the kickoff, a scrum on halfway offering Nelson a last roll of the dice. They attacked strongly, but a turnover saw their hopes shattered, MBC halfback Curtis Petersen-Line gleefully booting into the terraces. Perhaps fittingly, given the upheaval in the Press Cup pecking order, a earthquake aftershock rolled through the park as referee Dave Woodhouse signalled full time.
The trophy, symbol of secondary school rugby supremacy north of the Waitaki River, was proudly held aloft in the middle of the park by the humble Moli amid scores of young supporters who invaded the field at fulltime. Their time had come.
Scores: Marlborough Boys' College 15 (TC Campbell, Atu Moli tries, Mitchell Smith con, pen) Nelson College 11 (Reece Fuller try, Finn Hart-Strawbridge 2 pen). Halftime 7-6 MBC.
- The Marlborough Express
Who will win the Press Cup on Saturday, 2.30pm, Lansdowne Park, Blenheim?