Nelson College fall at last fence
The bridesmaid's tag is wearing a little thin with Nelson College.
Beaten by Marlborough Boys College in last season's decider in Blenheim, Nelson has again felt the same familiar pang of defeat after losing 27-13 to Christchurch Boys' High School in Saturday's Press Cup secondary schools rugby final at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
It ended a memorable Press Cup campaign for the champion Christchurch side, finishing the competition unbeaten after eventually outscoring Nelson by four tries to two.
Christchurch had led 19-3 at the break after first use of a strong breeze, and although Nelson showed commendable spirit to reduce the deficit to 19-13 with around 11 minutes of the match remaining, they simply couldn't do enough to deny Christchurch a deserved win.
After their previous one-point regular season loss to Christchurch at Nelson College, Nelson could at least take solace in the fact that no-one's pushed them as close this year. But it's cold comfort when you're once again staring down the wrong end of the barrel and with the season's major prize on the line.
Three first-half tries to halfback Nick Johnson, left winger Tim Bolton and flanker Jacob Vincent provided Christchurch with the buffer they needed ahead of Nelson's anticipated second-half fight back. And it was the penetrative running of Christchurch's impressive No 12 Alex Nankivell that regularly stretched Nelson's defences, as the home team made profitable use of the their wind advantage.
Nelson eventually gained some traction after turning with the wind at their backs as tries to centre Tima Faingaanuku and finally to flanker-lock Cory Whakatihi suddenly had Nelson within reach at 19-13 heading into the death throes. But a second try to Vincent, lunging over from a well-controlled attacking lineout drive, and a last-minute penalty success to Nankivell finally saw Christchurch stretch their winning margin to 14 points.
Nelson head coach Lachie Taylor admitted that his team simply conceded too much ground during the first half.
"I thought we were just average in the first half, to be honest; once again we didn't start that well," Taylor said.
"Perhaps we were a wee bit confused [defensively]. We've trained for a couple of weeks on our wide defence and got caught on the inside by the second five [Nankivell]. He set up two tries by pushing back hard on the inside." Taylor also acknowledged Nelson's frustrating handling lapses that regularly cost them possession after having worked into strong attacking positions.
"We probably let ourselves down with ball-handling when we had good possession and good momentum. It just wasn't our day for the passes to stick," he said.
"In the second half when we were down in their 22, there was a period when we had good momentum and [possession] was coughed up. If that hadn't happened, we could have had them . . . could have turned the game there, but it wasn't our day." Still, No 8 Turoa Stephens, Whakatihi and prop Jake Wetere had showed strength with ball in hand as midfielders Alex Coventry and Faingaanuku, winger Asher Wells and fullback Denvour Kiel also had their moments on attack.
Nankivell was Christchurch's outstanding performer, although their captain and flanker Sean Forster excelled on defence and at the breakdowns, with Vincent another outstanding contributor to Christchurch's win.
The Nelson Mail