Marist seeking to cause final upset
Story by: Wayne Martin - The Nelson Mail - Photo by: shuttersport
Nelson aren't bothering with the usual pre-match ritual of conceding favouritism ahead of tomorrow's Bayleys Real Estate Tasman Trophy club rugby final against Marist at Trafalgar Park.
There's little point. No-one would believe them.
Galbraith Group Nelson head into the match as clear and deserved favourites, having maintained their unbeaten record through 12 games this season, racking up 64 tries along the way.
Wakatu Hotel Marist, on the other hand, began their season with just one win from their first six outings. However, they've since won all five of their Tasman Trophy matches in pool B, some by impressive margins, to set up tomorrow's decider.
While that still points favourably towards further Nelson success, a revitalised Marist team certainly warrant the respect of a wary opposition.
Nelson have been bitten before in crunch matches against dogged Marist sides and they'll be expecting another tenacious response from them tomorrow.
Nelson's obvious strength lies with a backline including in-form Tasman Makos representatives Robbie Malneek, Tom Marshall, Andrew Goodman and Mitchell Scott. Recently returned halfback Steve Alfeld is also on the bench.
Briefly on loan from the Crusaders, Marshall has the task of marking Marist's main attacking threat, centre Kieron Fonotia, although Marist fullback Latham Jones has also impressed with his pace and tryscoring ability.
Loose forwards Shane Christie and Shane Grieve and lock James Foster are the key components in a well-drilled Nelson forward pack although in No8 Liam Squire and flanker Gary Redmond, Marist have two of the province's most effective loose forwards.
Nelson coach Murray Scott said he was simply looking for a continuation of their successful season and for the team to keep improving. And he was certainly reading nothing into their convincing 49-20 season-opening win over Marist at Neale Park.
"We don't look too much at the opposition to be honest, we just try and set some standards ourselves and try and reach them," he said.
"Over the last two or three weeks we've been building quite well to where we want to be.
"We haven't seen [Marist] since round one. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then so analysing them's been pretty tough.
"So we're just focused pretty much on what we're going to do.
"It's probably the first time this year we've been injury free, so it's good timing for us."
Marist coach Nick Bright was obviously aware of the threat posed by Nelson's backs.
"We're expecting Nelson to play a pretty expansive game, weather dependent," he said.
"Obviously they've got a dangerous backline, so we're quite aware of their back three being very deadly from broken play.
"We're going to play how we've been trying to play the last few weeks, we'll just look at building phases early in the forwards, setting targets and we'll attack when we get into their half.
"We'll be playing pretty sensible rugby early on. We'll be keeping it tight."
Despite the absence of experienced hooker Francis Smith and lock Dan Squire, who has returned to Palmerston North, Bright was still confident his forwards could provide the necessary platform.
"I think we've still got the firepower there to give them a crack in the forwards."
With Nelson Bays championship points also at stake tomorrow, the day's other two clashes will see Accessman Stoke host Taylors Contracting Wanderers at Greenmeadows at 1.30pm and Enza Riwaka at home to New World Huia at Cooks Reserve, kick off at 3pm.