- By Adam Julian and Steven White. Photo by @tackld
Nelson College have sounded a warning to their southern rivals with two convincing victories over Rongotai College and St Patrick’s College, Silverstream on their short Wellington tour.
Rongotai was slain 77-7 on Wednesday and Silverstream subdued 40-5 on Friday. Nelson used 25 players across both games which lasted 165 minutes in total. Silverstream auditioned 32 players in the Friday tussle.
Rongotai College will be much better for the experience of their heavy defeat.
They are unlikely to encounter a tougher outfit than Nelson College in local competitions this year.
With just three players returning to the First XV from last year, the new-look Rongotai side met an established first XV squad of predominantly year 13 players who were big, fast and well-drilled and simply overwhelmed them in winning 14 tries to one.
Nelson led 29-0 after the first ‘third’, 55-0 after the second and 77-7 by fulltime.
Nelson were Crusaders region Championship winners in 2019 and made the trip to the National Top 4 finals in Palmerston North. Last year they were sixth and for them the only way is up in 2021. They are preparing to play last year’s winners St Andrew’s College in their competition opener on May 8.
They made a fast start against Rongotai, opening their scoring spree with a try from a lineout drive.
Three of their next four tries were scored through slick attacking movements started from deep. Second five-eighth Regan Lawton plucked a kick out of the air to score the next try. The third try came from enormous pressure on Rongotai’s defensive scrum, while starting centre Ollie Inch and starting right wing Timi Sauira (2) scored well taken tries.
Rongotai eventually settled and competed well in patches, but it would only be late in the game they looked like breaching their last line of defence.
Sauira completed his hat-trick early in the middle 25-minute spell, while Nelson’s scrum and lineout dominance and extra size started to tell as they found easy pickings in Rongotai’s defence as the lively home crowd on the bank returned to class from their lunch interval.
Both teams emptied their large benches in the final stretch of the match, with Nelson scoring a further four tries and Rongotai one after a penalty and lineout and drive at the line.
On Friday a swirling northerly, accompanied by autumnal leaves blowing across the field, made handling, kicking and even footing difficult throughout the 3×30 minute tussle.
Silverstream started the match by kicking the ball out on the full and the only lineout possession they won was on an opposition throw, the hosts middle row considerably shorter than the visitors.
Despite a couple of breakouts from third year centre Tony Solomona, Nelson was superior and could have led by more than 14-0 at the first break.
First-Five Cooper Grant was first to strike after a sweeping move down the embankment touchline. Powerhouse blindside Netana Baleisomosomo then ploughed over after repeated forward thrusts.
The middle period was the most competitive with neither team scoring. Silverstream prop Calvin Fepuleai and bustling lossies Toby Crosby and Sam Morgan helped even the ledger, but Nelson replaced key players, including the demanding, but sometimes, erratic Baleisomosomo. Silverstream’s attack looked stilted as new combinations struggled to settle. Nelson tackled with feroristy.
Nelson struck quickly upon the resumption of the third quarter to stretch the margin to 26-0. Silverstream scored a try out wide with some swift handling, but Nelson finished the stronger with another two tries. Baleisomosomo finished with a double and lock Hunter Leppien collected two tries. He was perhaps the standout player with his hustle, leadership and imperious lineout jumping.
Silverstream hosts St Bede’s College in an annual traditional fixture next Friday at midday. St Bede’s won the last meeting in 2019 after rallying from 0-17 down at halftime.