Age group sides impress
The Nelson Bays age group rugby sides kicked off to the perfect start in the South Island tournament, with both the under-18 and under-16 sides beating their Canterbury Country opponents at Jubilee Park on Saturday.
The under-18 side proved that cliches are well used for a reason, as this was well and truly a game of two halves. Nelson Bays scored four first-half tries to lead 22-0 at the break; in the second half they didn't trouble the scorers once but limited their opposition, to win 22-7.
The team, made up of the top First XV players from around the region, were an unstoppable force and used blinding ruck speed to fracture Country's defensive line. The Nelson side played with such classic basics, even their tries looked like a formula.
No 8 Larry Banse crossed followed by loosehead prop Miro Mitchell.
Once the low numbers had established dominance and tied in the Country loosies, it was the backs' turn. Right wing Fletcher Matthews touched down then, to complete the effort, left wing Lote Saulekaleka dived across in the left-hand corner.
A number of changes were made at halftime and that disruption, mixed with an increased focus on the breakdown from Country, halted Nelson. To their credit Country began to throw numbers into the ruck, disrupting Nelson's ball and securing their own.
Co-coach Greg Fry said getting the points was important but they also have plenty to work on.
"We started off with intensity and got a good roll on but in the second half perhaps we relaxed a little bit and Country turned and focused on their blowouts and cleanouts. It gives us plenty to work on for next week's game."
Fry also said the depth in the squad is impressive. Four of the region's top college players, Mitchell Drummond, Steve Soper and Kerehama Barrett, were unavailable after trialling for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team while Mitchell Hunt is in Australia with the New Zealand development touch rugby side.
A strong Nelson Bays under-16 effort accounted for their Canterbury Country opposition 34-7. The five-try-to-one match was built off a massive forward effort led by captain and No 8 Quentin Strange, openside flanker Brendon Asamuoa-Goodman and Kawkai Vachiranuwong.
The foundation and dominant lineout display allowed halfback Reece Fuller to bag a double, hooker Toby Munro to score plus Asamuoa-Goodman, along with replacement Isaac Salmon. Second five-eighth Jacob Whitaker kicked three conversions and a penalty.
Coach Graham Pitman said he was impressed by the work ethic shown.
"Conditions weren't conducive to open flowing rugby but it went bloody well. The best thing was that we started slow and Canterbury Country scored first but from there kicked on and the boys knuckled down to their work, punching into the wind and worked themselves into the corners."
For both the Nelson Bays squads, it was pleasing to see form from the warmup games transfer into competition points.
The under-18 side accounted for a Country Seniors selection 59-5 and then had a tough 15-3 win over Buller Development.
The under-16 started with a 26-10 win over Marlborough and then beat a Nelson College selection 31-0.
The under-16 Nelson Bays side play at noon on Saturday at Jubilee Park in a competition game against Marlborough while the under-18 side host Marlborough at 1.30pm, again on Jubilee Park.
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