Sun, May 26, 2024 6:00 AM

Tasman Trophy sitting on a knife edge


Jack Malcolm

Stoke v Nelson

Via Jack Malcolm

A defiant Nelson didn’t have what it took to stop a rampaging Stoke in a high-scoring Tasman Trophy affair.

The 67-28 win was a dominant performance by the men in red, but the scoreboard didn’t tell the full story.

In other local premier club rugby results, Kahurangi were too strong for Central in a 28-19 win and Marist pasted Moutere 64-29, while Waimea Old Boys had a bye.

With Nelson falling just short of an upset last weekend, the team have been on an upward trend, but they couldn’t manage to unseat Stoke at Green Meadows

The game's defining moment was a disallowed try for double movement for Nelson that then turned into an intercept runaway down the other end in what ended up being a 14-point try.

With Nelson looking to get themselves back into the game, the change in momentum saw Stoke wrestle back control and extend their lead back out to an uncatchable margin.

Nelson, not to be outdone, fought to the bitter end with their best try of the game coming at the death as they hit the ball with pace and found consistent metres past the advantage line to break the defence.

But, it was Stoke’s day as they ran in 11 tries, with several being breakaways that saw them run the length of the park.

First five-eighth Maloni Kunawave was again a standout for Stoke, being instrumental in several tries while scoring two of his own.

With his captain, Mason Lund, calling Maloni a “freak” with the way he can see the game, he was instrumental in the big win.

“I don’t have the words to describe it. He’s been carrying us the last few weeks,” says Mason.

Mason, who plays halfback, was also quick to thank the forwards for their workrate around the park in ensuring quick ball to mount their attacks.

“We’ve got some pretty talented players. . . guys like Maloni and Chris Little, we’re stacked with X-factor.

“If we execute the basics well, we can run any team off the park.”

With Stoke still having injuries plaguing their front row, the team had three hookers make up the first line of the scrum, which Mason says is a testament to their culture.

“It comes back to everyone buying in and doing what’s asked of them. No one is too big for the team.”

Nelson captain Matt Lowe says they have the building blocks of a strong squad, but just haven’t been able to put them together just yet.

“Everyone fought hard and gave a lot of effort, it will come.

“The culture is definitely coming along. We had a lot of new guys come in this year and everyone is out there playing for each other.”

Matt says while there are some “little moments” to fix up, there were still positives to take from the game.

One is that the scoreboard wasn’t a reflection of their effort, with Stoke having several runaway tries.

Having come just short of an upset against Waimea Old Boys last weekend, Nelson is still not a team to take lightly as the competition starts to heat up into the death.

With Stoke having a “tough back stretch” according to Mason and five teams in the hunt for the four semi-final places, the Tasman Trophy contenders continue to hang in the balance for another week.

Kahurangi were all smiles after earning the John Goodman Challenge Trophy back from Central and keeping their noses in front on the points leader board. Photo: Peter Jones.

Central v Kahurangi

Via Peter Jones

Central’s grip on the Tasman Trophy appears tenuous after going down 28-19 to a well-motivated Kahurangi side at Lansdowne Park.

The Blues may have won the previous two Tasman Trophy titles, which has served to draw a large target on their backs and Kahurangi took aim today, their victory earning them the coveted John Goodman Challenge Trophy, plus vital competition points to keep them at the top of the standings.

The home side’s pack generally dominated at scrum time, but were often outmuscled at the breakdown, despite the best efforts of returning skipper Braden Stewart who snaffled a few clean turnovers. Central’s usually-reliable lineout also came under pressure, creating an inability to maintain phase play and impose pressure.

The Blues scored first, a slick try to left winger Eric Lawson, but that was where the good news for the home fans ended. Kahurangi pounced on any loose ball to score four long range tries before the halftime break. A double to flying fullback Jack Gray was matched by touchdowns to wingers Stein Schreiber and Brodie Robinson as the visitors eagerly made the most of a series of half chances.

Fortunately for Central, none of the tries were converted, leaving them in the game at 20-5, provided they scored first after the break.

They did that, but it took nearly half an hour of attack and counterattack, Lawson bagging his second as the Blues upped the ante against a dogged Kahurangi defensive line.

Cam Hansford’s conversion reduced the margin to eight but, five minutes later the pendulum dramatically swung back the other way. A dropped ball in the Central midfield was snapped up by Robinson who ran away to give Kahurangi some breathing space, which was increased when first five Stewart Cruden landed a penalty.

Down 28-12, Central came again and bagged a late converted try to No 8 Jesse MacDonald but it was mere consolation from a match where they failed to earn a bonus point and dropped out of the top four.

Loosies MacDonald, Stewart and Wayden Smith were prominent up front for the Blues, locks Jack Powell and Matt McCormick carrying well, while winger Cody Weir pulled off a couple of vital tackles.

However, it is back to the drawing board for the defending champs who have plenty of work to do if they are going to provide a Tasman Trophy ‘three-peat’.

Kahurangi had plenty of heroes, including Manu Parkin and Angus Fletcher up front, their exciting back three, plus Cruden and midfielders Cameron Griffith and Sefo Seigafo.

Standings: Kahurangi 31, Stoke 27, Marist 26, Waimea OB 25, Central 24, Moutere 10, Nelson -6.

Nelson App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.