Semi's early finish baffles

Nelson College were beaten 21-19 in the semifinal of the national secondary school sevens competition yesterday by tournament hosts and eventual champions Kelston Boys, in a repeat of last year's final.

While the team made the top four and had two players named in the BNZ Condor Sevens tournament side, a controversial refereeing decision robbed Nelson of a last-gasp chance to progress to the final, in what Sky Television commentator Richard Turner called "a huge decision".

As time ticked down, Nelson led the defending champions 19-14. A breakout try and conversion by Kelston gave them a two-point buffer, but with time left for one last play, the referee blew the final whistle.

The Kelston try was scored with 45 seconds left on the clock, more than the allotted maximum time allowed for the protracted conversion to take place. And with Nelson College ready to kick off at halfway, play should have been allowed to continue.

Kelston went on to claim their third title in a row, beating Mount Albert Grammar in the final 35-10.

Nelson College captain Mitchell Drummond said the team had wanted to go one better than last year's 26-19 loss to Kelston in the final, but it was not to be.

"It is pretty disappointing losing the way we did, it didn't go our way, but we are still proud of where we got to, " Drummond said yesterday.

"Obviously there should have been a kick-off and we should have had a crack at scoring some points, but that is just the way the ball bounces sometimes."

Despite the disappointment, the Phil Ave coached team acquitted themselves well, with a number of sevens pundits commenting about the quality and structure of their play.

The team-based game plan set the foundation for playmaker Drummond and kick-off receipt specialist Te Puoha Stephens to make the 12-person tournament team.

"I guess it was nice to get some recognition from the tournament, but we couldn't have done that without the team. With the team we have, everyone works for each other," said Drummond.

Three of the 12 will then be selected to attend a three-day New Zealand Sevens training camp, with the New Zealand Sevens squad. Drummond said that attendees of those camps had spoken of the "freakish" fitness examinations players are put through, but he was intent on going if selected.

"If I get the opportunity to go, I'll grab it with both hands," said Drummond.

Drummond, who scored a hat-trick in the 26-14 win over Rotorua Boys' in the cup quarterfinal, was one of three players considered closely for the tournament's top award of best and fairest player.

Alongside the New Zealand Barbarians halfback and Stephens, many of their team-mates impressed. Prior to the tournament team being read out, Condor Rugby Club's tournament team selector Ramsey Tomokino said many other Nelson players were "being tracked".

Based on their level of play and observations from well-respected rugby minds like Karl Te Nana and Ken Laban in commentary, at least three other Nelson players will be in that category. Players like Mitchell Hunt, Steve Soper and Kerehama Barrett won plenty of plaudits on the day.

In making the finals, Nelson College beat Westlake Boys 19-7, and Napier Boys 38-7. Despite dominating territory and possession, Nelson were beaten 28-19 by Auckland Grammar, meaning they finished their pool play in second place.

Also attending the competition, the Nayland College girls' team took part in the inaugural girls' competition. Nayland didn't pick up a win, but the experience gained from the competition will be valuable.

Nayland were beaten 33-0 first up by finalists Mahurangi, they lost to Auckland Girls 36-0 and Napier Girls 28-0. In the Girls Bowl quarterfinal they were beaten 30-0 by Onehunga and they were also beaten by James Cook in the Girls Shield semifinal.

The Nelson Mail