Nelson claim shield with emphatic win
Story by: Nelson Mail - Photo by: Gavin Hadfield/shuttersport
Most people expected a match that would go down to the wire, but Saturday's Seddon Shield rugby clash between Marlborough and Nelson Bays at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim turned into a one-sided 47-7 romp for the visitors.
Defending the shield for the fifth time in their current tenure, Marlborough were simply blown off the park in a first-half Nelson Bays blitz which had the challengers up 34-0 at halftime.
Nelson Bays played with an intensity, accuracy, physicality and enthusiasm that Marlborough simply could not match. For an hour, it looked like teams from different divisions playing each other.
Nelson Bays had plenty of motivation.
They were still hurting from not taking the shield back in a 9-9 draw in Blenheim last year.
If there was any doubt about what the famous trophy meant to the men in blue, coaches Kahu Marfell and Gary Stevens made sure the newcomers in the team learned in the buildup.
Marfell said by the time he'd finished speaking, his charges knew exactly how much it meant and how much history was enshrined in one of New Zealand rugby's oldest trophies.
It was in fact the 71st time the shield had changed hands and the way Nelson Bays waded into Marlborough, it looked as though the score would pass 71 at one stage.
Nelson Bays dominated possession and territory, producing quick ball from the breakdown and combining backs and forwards in producing several scintillating tries.
Shell-shocked Marlborough coach Steve Crockett said after the match that the signs pre-match were not good when his team were sloppy in their warmups.
James Lash drew first blood for Nelson Bays with a penalty, while Rawiri Tamati was astray with both his early attempts.
Nelson Bay's opening try in the 18th minute was a cracker and epitomised how they played.
The forwards muscled upfield, breached the advantage line and when the defence was in tatters, quick hands and a wide pass freed up speedy winger Brenton Connell for the touchdown.
Marlborough lock Daniel Karena was sin-binned for a breakdown infringement and Nelson Bays capitalised, scoring two brilliant tries to fullback Tema Faifua and another to number eight Fetu Havilli.
To rub further salt in Marlborough's wounds, winger Latham Jones joined the try-scorers, finishing another very well constructed effort.
Things didn't improve for Marlborough early in the second half.
A man in front from the kickoff was quickly followed by a Lash field goal to make it 37-0 before he banged over a close-range penalty.
Midway through the second half, Marlborough turned over possession and midfielder Sione Holani scored.
For the remaining 18 minutes, it was all Marlborough as they finally found the spark missing for most of the match.
Three times they were held up over the try line by resolute defence, then finally had some reward for their efforts when James Pigou burrowed over with help from fellow forward Kurt Lindsay.
Just how much winning the shield meant to Nelson Bays was evident in their after-match celebrations and they had every reason to be so happy having produced an outstanding performance.
Marlborough's best back was midfielder Onolevu Temo, with another fearless display both in defence and in breaching the opposition defences in the second half.
James Pigou impressed with his work rate and ball in hand, and Lindsay battled hard against the odds, as did skipper and lock Stu Campbell.
For Nelson Bays, lock Jarrod Aberhart was superb around the park and one of the main reasons that his team dominated the lineouts.
Loose forwards Havili and Mitchell Thwaites were destructive along with prop Ropate Rinakama.
Nelson Bays, having such a good platform to work from, were impressive, led by their inside back combination of halfback and captain Shaun Begg and wily first five Lash, who contributed 22 points, including two field goals.
"Marlborough coach Crockett was obviously disappointed to end the shield tenure with such a big loss.
"They [Nelson Bays] were fired up for us and we knew they would be but we just did not respond. We felt like we were going back to club rugby with some of the things we were doing.
"One little thing led to another and they kept scoring points,'' Nelson Bays co-coach Kahu Marfell rated their first-half performance one of the best he's seen.
"The boys clicked in that first half. The intensity was on song and we basically blew Marlborough off the park,'' he said.
"We talked about intensity, the tempo of the game. I told the boys if we could play a full-on tempo game, I didn't think Marlborough could stay with us. The boys stuck to the game plan and everything clicked.''