Last-gasp try denies Nelson College win
Nelson College will be battling feelings of injustice following Saturday's last-minute 23-22 Press Cup secondary schools rugby loss to Christchurch Boys' High School.
However, Christchurch might also have been excused an even greater sense of inequity had Nelson held on to win their top-of-the-table clash at Nelson College.
Both teams were unbeaten heading into the match, Nelson holding desperately to a 22-18 lead with time up and Christchurch attacking strongly down the right flank. Nelson's supporters were willing referee Hadley Peterson to end the contest as an urgent Nelson defence frantically defused the attack just metres from the line. Instead, the resulting lineout was called, Christchurch somehow managing to disrupt Nelson's throw as the visitors launched one final attack.
From Christchurch's standpoint, justice was duly served when fullback Hayden Webber finally breached Nelson's defence to cross wide out and steal victory with the last play of the match.
Ultimately, Christchurch prevailed in an area in which they'd held a distinct advantage all game as a condensed Nelson backline defence continued to offer Christchurch acres of room out wide. Rangy centre Faletui Samuelu was the key figure in Christchurch's attacking play with his clever distribution and incisive running.
Nelson's other key area of concern was a dominant Christchurch scrum. It wasn't a size issue, more a matter of technique as Nelson struggled to establish any set piece fluency. That, combined with Christchurch's aggressive and effective play at the first-half breakdowns gave some early hint of the major challenge facing the home team.
Christchurch were well worth their 13-5 halftime lead as early tries to Webber and No 8 Jesse Forsyth, to a late opportunist try to Nelson wing Matt Soper off a 30m sideline kick and chase, gave Christchurch a deserved edge.
But as they'd shown sporadically during the first half, Nelson's most effective attacking force centred on the driving power of their forwards where the usual suspects, Brendan Asomua-Goodman, Turoa Stephens, Jake Amlehn and Cory Whakatihi, began to dictate terms. The second-half return of lock Quinten Strange, after a lengthy injury break, also helped to settle Nelson's forwards as Christchurch's battered defences gradually began to falter.
A Reece Fuller penalty got Nelson closer at 13-8 before a try to Asomua-Goodman following a forward barrage on Christchurch's line gave the home team their first lead at 15-13. An effective kick return, again after oustripping Nelson out wide, saw midfielder Fraser Scott cross to restore Christchurch's lead at 18-15. Asomua-Goodman again had Nelson back in front at 22-18 with around eight minutes remaining after his second bulldozing try. But they couldn't hold on, Christchurch's slick backs unlocking Nelson's defence for the match-winning try.
Waimea College had a late sniff of victory before conceding a last-gasp try in their 11-6 loss to Roncalli College in Timaru.
With the scores locked at 6-all and around four minutes remaining, Jayden Woolley stepped up from a difficult angle in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to put Waimea in front. Roncalli had one more play up their sleeves, eventually outskirting Waimea's defence following several phases to put midfielder Dan Patterson across for the game's only try with two minutes remaining.
Roncalli had led 6-3 at halftime following two penalties from fullback James Brosnahan to a solitary Woolley success. Woolley had assumed the kicking duties after second five-eighth Jake Berthelsen was forced off with a shoulder injury earlier in the game, Woolley eventually levelling the scores to send the game into its dramatic final moments.
Waimea's forwards worked hard to match a willing home pack, with tighthead prop Viliami Inisi, lock Jeremy Lordan and No 8 Sam Madden all major contributors. Madden again led superbly from the front, despite suffering a broken nose, while Inisi was solid all over the park and an inspirational contributor to a convincing Waimea defensive effort.
Waimea maintained defensive pressure throughout as committed tacklers continued to defuse Roncalli's attacks - until the final moments.
The team missed Berthelsen's direction following his premature departure, with prop Storm Steer also gone early with an ankle injury.
- The Nelson Mail