Nelson proud of U16 results
The final day of the under-16 South Island rugby tournament started with snow flurries and sleet but the Nelson Bays players were not worried in the slightest as they were about to play their final under the roof at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Despite losing the final against rampaging perennial winners Canterbury Metro, the under-16 side achieved Nelson Bays' best-ever result in coming second. Nelson were beaten 50-7 in the final on Saturday but their most satisfying result came from an absorbing 9-6 extra-time semifinal win over tournament hosts Otago the day before.
The Nelson boys were lifted by having the Makos away-strip on as they took the field to face Otago at home. The rhythm of the game was established early on with one-off running, cut-backs and kicking to space. Unfortunately, the frequent errors from both sides thwarted any ability to sustain pressure or momentum.
Finally, Nelson gained some territory off the boot of Matt Soper and Jacob Whitaker. Brendan Asomua-Goodman, Riley Heslop and William Gifford worked as a tireless loose trio closing down moves, and scrapping for every loose ball. However, Otago went to the break ahead 3-0, after a penalty from second five-eighth Patelesio Tomkinson.
In the second half, Otago were penalised for being offside at a ruck and Jacob kicked an effortless penalty so, when the 70 minutes of normal time elapsed with the scores tied 3-3, extra time was called.
Otago scored first from a penalty with Reece Mau'u making Nelson pay for entering a ruck from the side.
Nelson were resilient and immediately replied with Kendall Hodson converting a penalty for not releasing. Again the teams turned with the scores level and it all came down to the last five minutes of extra time.
Otago had the final in their sights but Reece Manu's attempt was off-target and, with two minutes to go, Otago were again guilty of not releasing in the tackle tackle. Kendall stepped up to take the 48-metre kick and, after "making sure his hair was in place", he struck the ball.
Andy Malcolm, team doctor and spokesman, explained that it was a wobbly old kick.
"As he struck the ball it dipped and then rose on a gust of wind. It looked to drop short of the post, only to land on the crossbar, it bounced up and fell on the ground. Only the flags would have told us that it had gone over the posts . . . fist pumping and rousing calls to arms reverberated around the ground."
Unfortunately, injuries forced Brendan and Riley out of the team for the final the following day. The two loose forwards carried huge workloads in defence and ball-carries on attack, so their absence would be keenly felt.
For Nelson, Jacob continued his great form in the tournament, skipping through the defensive line to score under the posts and convert his own try. Turoa Stevens was a menace in the backs; he stole several balls and always looked threatening with the ball in hand. But ultimately Canterbury came through to claim the title.
"History was against us," Malcolm said. "We were again facing Canterbury Metro and . . . Canterbury or Canterbury Metro have won it 14 times, including nine times in the last 13 years.
"I believe the boys can reflect on a season where they have all done very well. The stadium was a great experience for them. It's been a pleasure and privilege to be around them."