Nelson Bays again tested by rivals
Battles with traditional rivals rarely go to plan; they either leave you on an exultant high or gut you like a fresh snapper ready for the frypan.
Nelson Bays experienced both extremes on Saturday as they hosted old foe Marlborough at Jubilee Park. The Nelson Bays under-18 side put the boot in with a 43-10 win while, in the under-16s, Marlborough scored in injury time, kicking the conversion for a 24-22 victory.
Despite the mixed results, both teams are looking good for a top-eight spot as the South Island tournament concludes with the last round-robin and then a finals series out of town next week.
The under-18s are guaranteed a spot in the top-tier quarterfinals as they are unbeaten in their two matches to date in the northern zone. On Saturday, Nelson travel to play their final northern game against Canterbury Metro in Christchurch. Friday week they will travel back to the city to meet the other top qualifiers from the southern and central zones in the finals tournament with the final on Sunday.
Despite their loss, Nelson Bays should finish in the top three among the northern teams and qualify for the final, but they will be looking to for a win against Canterbury Metro next Wednesday to promote their position in the standings. That match in Dunedin will kick off consecutive days in the finals series with the final on Saturday.
Nelson Bays under-18s
The weather will be a big factor at the tournament in Christchurch as the under-18 side showed what they are capable of on a dry track, blowing their rivals off the park in the second half.
It was a total team effort from Nelson in a physical game. The fitness of the forwards and the classy Nelson backs allowed them to push on. From 20-10 halftime, Nelson scored 23 points in the second spell and kept Marlborough scoreless.
It was a quick start when Nelson No 6 Steve Soper pounced on a loose ball and went through two tackles to score a fine individual try after only three minutes. Marlborough scored a well-constructed forward try from a rolling maul to score five minutes later.
As any good side does, Nelson struck straight back. Fletcher Matthews called for a box kick from halfback Mitchell Neal, who produced the punt with pinpoint accuracy. Matthews retrieved the kick and scored.
Nelson fullback Dave Havilli finished an excellent team try but Marlborough crossed again to keep in touch at the break.
The Nelson backs cut loose in the second spell as the forwards gained the upper hand. A superb run by an evasive Havilli put Matthews in for his second on the right wing. Soon after, an exceptional intercept earned Matthews his hat-trick in a standout performance.
Replacement loose forward Larry Banse put centre Sean Clementson across for the final try of the game. Over the final stretch, frustration crept in and Marlborough prop Atu Moli was given a yellow card.
Finn Hart-Strawbridge converted the penalty to Luca Roden's 10 points from the boot to accompany the six-try display.
Nelson Bays under-16
The Nelson Bays under-16 side were also playing under a hot sun but the battle they had with the boys from east of the Whangamoas was far more torrid.
Marlborough started the scoring with a massive drop goal from 45 metres out. Marlborough crossed for a converted try to match a Nelson penalty, going to the break 10-3 ahead.
In the second half, Nelson came out on fire. Prop Kendall Hodson crashed his way over before inside centre Jacob Whitaker lit up the field with a long-range effort. The tries and Whitaker's boot took Nelson out to a 22-10 lead with seven minutes to play.
A supposed ankle tap that looked more like an awkward trip cost Nelson momentum as a player was sent from the field. Marlborough scored to close the gap and the game went into referee's time. Marlborough broke through again and the winning conversion was on target.
Nelson Bays under-16s still remain in second spot with six points while Marlborough have four. Canterbury Metro are on top of the northern zone pool.
- If you have a secondary school sports story that you would like to see in the Nelson Mail, contact sports reporter Jonathan McKeown: email@example.com, or phone 03 546 2873.
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