Flawed finish almost costs Stoke victory again
Story by: Wayne Martin - The Nelson Mail - Photo by: Chris Symes
Stoke need to work on their finish.
Accessman Stoke tarnished an otherwise convincing Car Company Nelson Bays division one rugby win over Wakatu Hotel Marist by once again conceding late tries in their 38-22 victory at Tahunanui on Saturday.
After leaking three late tries in the previous week's big win over Taylor's Contracting Wanderers, Stoke again hit the wall in the dying stages of Saturday's contest, despite moving into joint second on the championship points table.
Until then, and with only the final quarter remaining, Stoke had looked a polished and confident unit, a far cry from the outfit that struggled through the early part of the season.
They eventually outscored Marist by six tries to four, two of them to impressive prop Ray Packer, and had already pocketed their tryscoring bonus by halftime, when they held a decisive 26-5 lead.
Tries to second five-eighth Chad Lowrie and No8 Jarrod Aberhart, combined with Packer's brace, were the product of a well-organised Stoke forward effort, with Marist's only response coming through a try to their most threatening attacker, midfielder Devon Scott.
When Stoke stretched their lead to 38-5 midway through the second half, following further tries to halfback Shaun Begg and finally to fullback Leon Guerin, Marist appeared ready to fall apart.
Instead, it was Marist who responded positively over the dying stages as Stoke noticeably faded, conceding tries to front rower Connor McKinnon-Stevenson, substitute loosie Joe Yalayala and fullback Latham Jones.
It was a bizarre contest, with referee Andy Malcolm awarding five yellow cards, three to Marist players Ryan Trafford, Francis Smith and Reuben Northover, and the others to Aberhart and Stoke's reserve hooker, Robbie Groome, as Marist, in particular, struggled to both control early possession and establish any meaningful attacking rhythm.
Packer, Aberhart and wounded prop Mike Tyler, who left the field several times with a head gash, were the key contributors up front, while halfback Begg controlled the game nicely from the base.
Nelson 56 Wanderers 3
Robbie Malneek celebrated his 100th appearance for Galbraith Group Nelson in style, joining his team-mates as they handed Wanderers a seven-try bath at Trafalgar Park.
It was Malneek who appropriately sparked the rout when he ran in Nelson's first try in the opening minutes, the first of three during the first half as Nelson went to the break well in control at 24-3.
Flanker Mitchell Thwaites and wing Mitchell Scott also scored before the interval, Scott adding another two tries in the second half to push his season's tally to 15.
Nelson's forwards were dominant, controlling the set phases and impressing in the loose, where No8 Shane Christie was conspicuous with a number of strong ball carries.
Second five-eighth Andrew Goodman and fullback Andrew Lash completed the tryscoring, Lash also contributing six conversions and three penal-ties for personal 26-point tally.
Wanderers certainly adopted a physical approach, committing themselves aggressively on defence with some huge hits during the early stages.
Their only return, though, was a solitary first-half penalty to halfback Jackson Harvey, who now has 109 points for the season, as Nelson successfully shut down all their avenues of attack.
Besides Christie, lock Ben Bradley and prop Christian Tupuola were prominent performers in Nelson's dominant forward effort.
WOB 27 Riwaka 15
Star and Garter Waimea Old Boys are still hovering two points adrift of the top four in sixth place after a hard-earned win over Enza Riwaka at Cooks Reserve.
Waimea scored the game's only three tries, with Riwaka again relying on wing Andy Beatson's accurate boot to provide the bulk of their points with four penalties. First five-eighth Paul Burton added a first-half drop goal.
Otherwise, it was left to Waimea to provide the tryscoring flourishes in a game where they often struggled to secure and maintain possession.
Waimea led just 10-9 at the break following a half in which Riwaka's forwards controlled the major share of possession. They weren't able to do much with it, though, as frustrating handling errors by both teams conspired to keep the scoring low.
Centre James Lowe scored Waimea's first-half try as fullback Josh Rutledge added a penalty and a conversion.
Rutledge added another seven points in the second half, although it was substitute halfback Kaide Whiting's impact off the bench that proved significant.
Returning from a three-week injury break, Whiting injected himself into the contest with two crucial tries, his second coming just 10 minutes from fulltime, to eventually help distance Waimea from a highly competitive home team.
Prop Katene Ruawai and flanker Manu Parkin impressed in Riwaka's forward effort, while lock Rikki Hoeata and defensively solid midfielder Corey McClelland were among Waimea's best performers.