Press Cup rivals slug it out in the storm

HARD TO HOLD: Jake Wetere makes a break during yesterday’s Press Cup game against Shirley Boys’ High School.
HARD TO HOLD: Jake Wetere makes a break during yesterday’s Press Cup game against Shirley Boys’ High School.

Nelson College will gladly bank yesterday's 17-3 Press Cup win over Shirley Boys' High School and head happily into next week's Quadrangular Tournament in Whanganui.

It wasn't a day for bonus-point wins or flowing rugby. The rain wasn't constant but, combined with a blustery northerly and a wet, muddy Nelson College playing surface, the conditions constantly tested everyone's resolve.

Shirley were a competitive outfit. They made their tackles, were disruptive at the breakdowns and put pressure on a troublesome Nelson scrum. Yet Nelson produced the game's only two tries.

No 8 Turoa Stephens typically powered over from close range just before the break to give the home team a slender 7-3 halftime lead. Substitute forward Cory Whakatihi added the second, again from close range, with just four minutes remaining, leaving fullback Brent Dalley to contribute both conversions and a penalty in a faultless goalkicking display.

The obvious strength of this year's Nelson team is the driving power of their aggressive pack. Flanker Brendan Asomua-Goodman and Stephens again set the pace, with only accurate Shirley defence denying Nelson early points after good continuity and clever ball recycling seriously threatened the opposition line.

Shirley played smart, exploiting any turnovers - and a helpful wind - to thump the ball deep back into Nelson territory. Nelson persisted with their forward-oriented attack, but Shirley grabbed the game's first lead with a 13th-minute penalty to No 10 Terewa Tamihana.

It took another 20 minutes for Stephens to finally breach Shirley's solid defence, and while it also took Nelson a long time to assert any second-half ascendancy, they clearly had enough in reserve to complete the win.

However, frustrating breakdown infringements and the inevitability of spilled possession in the trying conditions created a testing atmosphere for everyone.

Lock Kane Davis was a key figure in Nelson's early lineout execution, with fellow lock Quentin Strange and flanker Jake Amlehn and front rowers Jake Wetere. Joe Brady and Petter Faingaanuku each accpeting their share of the workload.

Nelson now head to Whanganui with some momentum behind them and a date with Christ's College in Monday's opening round.

The Nelson Mail