Lash keeps his cool to seal narrow win
James Lash laid claim to the first celebratory sup from the Moller Cup after kicking Nelson to a dramatic last-minute victory over Wanderers on Saturday.
The clash between the only two remaining unbeaten teams at Brightwater certainly lived up to its billing after the diminutive No 10 calmly slotted the winning field goal with less than a minute on the clock.
Galbraith Group Nelson's tense 16-14 win finally ended Taylor's Contracting Wanderers' winning run in just their first year back in the Car Company Nelson Bays division one rugby competition. But with Wanderers ahead 14-13 and time virtually up, Lash propped on to his favoured left boot and slammed the match-winning goal between the uprights from about 25m out, breaking a host of local supporters' hearts in the process.
Wanderers' rugged defensive reputation is well earned. For a team that's been averaging five tries a game so far this season, Nelson could manage only one on Saturday.
But it was clearly their most crucial to date when prop James Hadfield crashed over following a decisive counterattack by Lash and wing Kim Bateman, to give Nelson their first lead of the game at 13-7 with just 13 minutes remaining.
Wanderers wing Sione Holani had scored the game's only other try to that point, intercepting a loose pass from Nelson fullback Mitchell Scott to sprint 50m and help put Wanderers ahead 7-0 at halftime.
Two penalty successes and Hadfield's try eventually gave Nelson some late traction, until Holani barged over for his second, Jackson Harvey's nerveless conversion success again putting Wanderers ahead 14-13 with six minutes left.
Wanderers' relentless and punishing defence negated Nelson's early monopoly off possession, Nelson squandering at least four try-scoring opportunities through defensive pressure on or near the line.
Aggressive No 8 Jake Cooley, flanker Mitchell Thwaites and lock Shane Grieve led Nelson's forward effort, complemented by Shane Christie's powerful ball-carrying as a significant second half substitute. They were matched by a tigerish Wanderers pack in which skipper Todd Bavin, prop Tyler Kearns and loosies Loa Windley and Lealoha Musika each epitomised the home team's single-minded approach.
Marist 32 WOB 32Star and Garter Waimea Old Boys' players sauntered off Trafalgar Park on Saturday apparently under the misapprehension they'd just secured a 32-29 victory over Wakatu Hotel Marist.
In fact they hadn't. After centre James Lowe landed a late penalty to seemingly hand Waimea a much-needed victory, the reality quickly dawned that official scoreline advice from referee Kevin Nalder to the Waimea players had been revised, the match instead ending in a 32-all draw. It meant that, rather than Waimea celebrating just their second win of the season, the two teams in fact shared the points after both also earned try-scoring bonuses, Marist for their five tries and Waimea for their four.
Lowe had also contributed two of his team's tries in another conspicuous individual performance, with halfback Kaide Whiting and lock Tevita Cavubati scoring the others. Whiting also contributed nine points with his boot, having returned to action from a brief injury break.
Wing Conner Trathen scored Marist's fifth and final try to officially help put his team ahead 32-29, Lowe eventually stepping up from around 45m to bang over the equalising penalty with time virtually up.
Waimea's big forwards, with new Fijian prop Joji Wasigitoni adding power to the mix, kept constant pressure on Marist's pack. However, Marist's backs always looked threatening whenever they had a chance to use the ball, with try-scoring fullback Latham Jones among their leading performers. Wing Dale Stacey, No 8 Joe Yalayala and hooker Francis Smith also contributed tries, with Yalayala and fellow loosies Carl Monopoli and Gary Redmond and Smith the pick of Marist's forwards.
Flanker Dan Hytongue produced another dynamic performance in Waimea's forward effort, with try-scoring lock Cavubati also a significant physical presence.
Stoke 20 Riwaka 13
There was more late drama at Greenmeadows where a try to No 8 Tevita Koloamatangi right on fulltime handed Accessman Stoke a gripping victory and their second straight win after four earlier defeats.
Among Stoke's more influential performers, Koloamatangi seized his chance from the back of an attacking 5m scrum to successfully launch himself full length at Enza Riwaka's line and break the 13-all deadlock.
Stoke had led 10-0 at the break after a converted try to centre Patrick Tafili-Reid and a penalty success by first five-eighth Jake Beleski. Riwaka regrouped effectively after the restart with a converted try to lock Ben Sadrugu and penalties to wing Tony Fatai and fullback Andy Robb, answered only by a second half penalty to Beleski. Then with time virtually up, Koloamatangi made his match-winning bid to send Stoke into next week's Tasman Trophy round with a crucial boost in confidence.
Besides Koloamatangi, prop Ray Packer and locks Ben Douglas and Steve Kerr were central to Stoke's forward effort as halfback Matt Gaines, Beleski and midfielder Chad Lowrie impressed further out.
Lock Mangisi Kaho and prop Paul Tasker were key figures in Riwaka's tight forward effort, while No 8 Lucuster Mati produced his usual robust effort in the loose. First five-eighth Paul Burton again impressed.
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