Nelson favoured to remain unbeaten

Nelson need just two more wins to complete an unbeaten season.

Conversely, it could all end for them tomorrow unless they can get past New World Huia in their sudden-death Car Company Nelson Bays club rugby semifinal at Neale Park. That's the cruel nature of finals rugby.

The odds clearly favour Galbraith Group Nelson. The teams have already met twice this season, Nelson winning both encounters 30-17 and 31-0, though there's a resolute quality about Huia that will command Nelson's full attention.

Nelson have 15 straight wins this season, averaging just over five tries per match, and having scored five tries in each of their previous wins over Huia.

However, it's not just Nelson's attack that will pose problems for Huia tomorrow. Nelson have conceded two tries only in their past five outings and haven't had their line crossed for the past three weeks. So besides trying to guard their own line against Nelson's slickly operating attack, Huia must also develop a plan to break down the wall at the other end.

There's much more uncertainty surrounding the other semifinal between Wakatu Hotel Marist and Accessman Stoke at Tahunanui.

Each has enjoyed a decisive win over the other this season, Marist winning the first encounter 46-21 and Stoke clearly winning the second 38-22, despite leaking three late tries. Significantly, their most recent clash was three weeks ago, suggesting that the momentum is considerably in Stoke's favour heading into tomorrow's crunch match.

Stoke were the early season easybeats but their transformation has been remarkable over the past month due, in no small part, to experienced halfback Shaun Begg's return from overseas.

Marist will also be hoping that their livewire flanker, Gary Redmond, has sufficiently overcome a recent shoulder injury and will take his place in tomorrow's lineup. Both matches kick off at 3pm.

Points: Jackson Harvey (Wanderers) 127, Andy Beatson (Riwaka) 117, Kieron Fonotia (Marist) 116, James Lash (Nelson) 105, Andrew Goodman (Nelson) 90.

Tries: Mitchell Scott (Nelson) 15, Latham Jones (Marist) 12, Robbie Malneek (Nelson) 10, James Lowe (WOB) 10, Andrew Goodman (Nelson) 9, Kieron Fonotia (Marist) 9.

The Press Cup secondary schools rugby championship resumes tomorrow following a two-week break, with Nelson College heading to Timaru and Waimea College and Nayland College both hosting home games.

Currently placed third in the top-eight series, Nelson play bottom-placed Timaru BHS, coached this season by former Nelson senior club coach Dave Fisher, with only two further rounds before the playoffs.

Waimea meet Lincoln HS in Richmond at 11am, with second-placed Waimea looking to further consolidate their bottom-eight playoff position. Nayland host Ashburton College, also at 11am, with Nayland still chasing their first win of the season.

The Nelson Mail