Nelson College blow big lead to suffer upset UC Championship loss against STAC
A dramatic second half meltdown has condemned Nelson College to an away semifinal against top qualifiers Christchurch Boys High School in next Saturday's UC Championship secondary schools rugby playoffs.
But while Nelson College were squandering a 35-14 halftime lead to eventually lose 43-42 to St Andrew's College in Christchurch, Waimea Combined Schools were completing a comprehensive 27-8 win over Mid Canterbury Combined to confirm their place in the plate semifinals.
A remarkable second half comeback allowed St Andrews to storm past Nelson College in Christchurch.
Nelson were in a seemingly unassailable position when they led 35-14 at halftime. But a determined second half effort, coupled with some uncharacteristically limp Nelson defence, allowed the hosts to scrape through with a fine try in the last play of the game.
Big No 8 Kini Veitata surged over for the final coup de grace to cap off an irresistible all round performance.
He was the dominant member of the resurgent forward pack but was well supported by ball running loose forward Dominic Cornish. First five eighth Llewellyn Duff manipulated play expertly to ensure St Andrews played in the correct areas of the field in the second half.
Earlier, it appeared that Nelson would comfortably secure their bonus point win to guarantee a home semifinal. A dominant lineout, led by Anton Segner and Fergus Hughes, ensured plenty of quality ball that the backs gorged on hungrily.
Clever backline options by Levi Carew and Karl Ratcliffe, backed by the pacey back three of Iliaisa Gabiral, Ben Hazlett and Leicester Faingaanuku, kept the scoreboard ticking over.
A flawless goal kicking display by Faingaanuku meant the score was increasing in multiples of seven as he bagged a personal haul of 22 points.
Nelson No 8 Brad Pool matched the efforts of his opposite with a strong performance, capped by a 30m run to score a try which showcased his pace and strength.
Meanwhile, Waimea Combined completed the bonus point win they needed at Waimea College, scoring five tries to one, to secure themselves a plate semifinal against St Andrew's in Christchurch next Saturday.
Although conceding a solitary late try cost Waimea the chance to finish in seventh place, they still produced a convincing performance to end a frustrating run of three straight losses.
Lock Joe Sharland scored at the beginning of each half as a major contributor to the win, Waimea's forwards working hard at the breakdown to ensure quick ball for a responsive backline.
All five of Waimea's tries were well-conceived efforts, with flanker Josh Grant, centre Ryan Churchill and winger Jayde Palmer also cashing in on a solid team performance. They were denied an even bigger win by Mid Canterbury's scrambling efforts in defence.
Sharland's two tries were just reward for his excellent support play, with Churchill particularly impressive in a clinical Waimea backline.
AT A GLANCE
St Andrews College 43 (Angus Gilbert 2, Kini Veitata, Tom Anderson, Mitchell White, Gordon Duff, Llewellyn Duff tries, Johnston 4 con) Nelson College 42 (Iliaisa Gabiral 2, Leicester Faingaanuku 2, Brad Pool, Ben Hazlett tries, Faingaanuku 6 con) HT: 14-35
Waimea Combined Schools 27 (Joe Sharland 2, Josh Grant, Ryan Churchill, Jayde Palmer tries, Josh McPherson con) Mid Canterbury Combined 8. HT: 17-3.