Nelson step up for big win
Nelson mercifully transformed a first-half yawn into an enterprising victory, overwhelming Marist 35-0 in Saturday's Bayleys Real Estate Tasman Trophy club final at Trafalgar Park.
Neither team had much to enthuse about in a frustrating first half riddled with turnovers and breakdown penalties, although Galbraith Group Nelson at least cashed in on two of their opportunities to take a 13-0 lead into halftime.
But they returned after the break to add a further 22 points into the wind, including three well-taken tries, while also shutting down all of Wakatu Hotel Marist's muted attempts to salvage anything from the series decider.
While Nelson couldn't achieve any fluency during a messy first half, their backs began to run more effectively into holes after the restart as they steadily began to build momentum.
Midfielder Andrew Goodman and hooker Danny Glover had scored Nelson's first-half tries, Goodman in support of a Mitchell Scott tap penalty in the 10th minute, and Glover after an attempted Marist clearance went awfully wrong with 10 minutes remaining.
Nelson were certainly more clinical in the second half as direct running by first five-eighth James Lash, substitute halfback Steve Alfeld, Goodman, fullback Robbie Malneek and Scott began to carve chunks out of Marist's territory.
And with loose forwards Mitchell Thwaites, Shane Christie and Shane Grieve contributing in both continuity and strong defensive roles, further tries to Malneek, off a clever cut with Scott, wing Kim Bateman and finally to Goodman from loose ball inside Marist's quarter sealed a comprehensive win.
Nelson squandered several gilt-edged chances through spilt passes as Marist maintained their defensive intensity throughout. Sometimes, though, Nelson's attack was simply too slick as Marist's stretched defence ran out of numbers.
Nelson coach Murray Scott said the team identified the areas of concern at the break and, despite the worsening weather conditions, vowed simply to run the ball.
It also paid dividends on another count, with Nelson picking up another five Car Company Nelson Bays championship points in the process, to be a staggering 26 clear of their nearest rivals.
"We said at halftime, `We're going to get a bit of ball because they're obviously going to play field position, but we've got a back three that we back to come up'," Scott said.
"We actually said, `What we're going to do is play football, we're not going to play a grind, we're actually going to have a crack', and we thought that might be a point of difference'."
As the backs regained their confidence, so too did Nelson's forwards.
"The forwards are unsung heroes. They measured up. The first scrum, they got hammered, and then they just came back.
"They fronted up, and that's awesome."
Marist's potentially threatening midfielder Kieron Fonotia was given little space in which to operate as Marist's backs struggled to breach an urgent defence.
Hooker and captain Francis Smith led a spirited first-half pack effort in which flanker Gary Redmond, prop Matt Muollo and No8 Liam Squire were also prominent.
Squire's departure with a serious leg injury late in the half was a severe blow, leaving Marist coach Nick Bright to ultimately proclaim the merits of a superior Nelson team effort.
"We just got outplayed by a better side," he said.
"We had plenty of opportunities in the first half, we just didn't take them.
"We got a couple of injuries, but Nelson were a better side, and that's the level that everyone else has got to aspire to get to."
Watch the whole game at www.fraserheal.co.nz, or see extended highlights on the Grass Roots Rugby TV show (Sky Sports, Prime, Cue).
Stoke 46 Wanderers 18
Halfback Shaun Begg contributed three tries as Accessman Stoke buried Taylors Contracting Wanderers at Greenmeadows.
Stoke's supporters might have argued that the contest was over by halftime after Stoke went to the break well in control at 29-3, having already picked up their tryscoring bonus point.
Begg scored two of them, opening Stoke's account in the eighth minute, with lock Jarrod Aberhart and finally right wing Brenton Connell also scoring to help build a massive buffer at the break.
Wanderers simply never fired in the first half as Stoke continued to capitalise on most of their scoring opportunities behind a vigorous forward effort and some determined running by the backs.
Begg added his third try after the restart, and flanker Sam Dempster and midfielder Chad Lowrie joined the party to help complete Stoke's seven-try tally.
Wanderers eventually managed to salvage something from the match as three late tries, to wing Ethan Johnston, midfielder Trael Joass and flanker Loa Windley, earned them some credibility on the scoreboard.
But they suffered from their first-half inertia, conceding far too many points to a switched-on Stoke side now with their sights set on securing a playoff berth.
Riwaka 12 Huia 5
Wing Andy Beatson provided all of Enza Riwaka's points as they also made a late bid for a place in the top four.
Beatson's four penalties, three of them in the first half, were enough to secure the win, despite Huia scoring the game's only try when prop Brock Kaahu slid across in the second half.
The weather dictated much of the play as both sets of forwards continued to hammer at each other throughout a dour contest.
The rain and mud proved counter-productive to any genuine attempts to play open rugby, with Beatson's accurate boot helping his team to their handy 9-0 halftime lead – which, considering the conditions, assumed even more significant proportions.
Riwaka's tight forwards matched up strongly against an equally committed Huia pack, with front rowers Paul Tasker, Logan Balsom and Ken Knaggs and locks Ben Sadrugu and Mangisi Kaho working hard throughout.
Huia flanker Sione Motuapa also got through a massive amount of work and carried the ball strongly, while fullback Tema Faifua was the most threatening of their backs.
The Nelson Mail