The city of Nelson is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated both the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. The British flag officer in the Royal Navy was renowned for his inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics. In the last dozen years of his life he functioned with one eye too.
Even the most one-eyed Nelson supporter would have surely flagged their prospects of retaining the Quadrangular title midway through the final against hosts Christ’s College.
Down 20-3, Nelson was cracked open three times, the same way. Assertive forward charges were followed by skip passes from pivot Jack Shearer to the flying wing of Jack Belcher who completed a first-half hat-trick. Christ’s were held up over the strip and denied from a narrow forward pass too.
Nelson’s only hint of promise was late in the first-half when they enjoyed prolonged possession.
Strategy and tactics for Nelson? Simple. Abort the kick and retain the ball even if that’s unconventional deep inside the 22. The leadership came from centre Ollie Inch and the seniors in the pack, most notably hooker Dylan Irvine and brutish flanker Netani Baleisomosomo.
It was a searing break by Irvine from 22 to 22 that super-charged the Nelson resurgence. A penalty and lineout maul stuffed the Christ’s pack and the score was 20-8.
The Nelson bench supplied additional punch with loose forward Joseph Domoni at the forefront. His gilding run created space and a try for Luc Waterman-Thomas. The sideline conversion to Cooper Grant shaved the deficit to 20-15.
Without fear of exaggeration Baleisomosomo might have handled 40 times throughout. His raw power and workrate was a sight to behold and when his blonde mop of hair was last to emerge from a pile of bodies it was 20-20 with 20 minutes left.
Christ’s, at last, pilfered a turnover but Shearer was off target with the penalty shot. However Nelson’s stray in discipline reopened the door for the hosts who soon took the lead with a lineout drive of their own.
Shearer plays with a maturity beyond his years and a cross kick to the right wing led to a dispute involving multiple hands and a denied Christ’s try. They had hit posts with an earlier conversion as well!
Those near misses would be punished by the visitors' military precision. A relentless barrage of “pick and goes” and “one-off the ruck” surges positioned Nelson near the Christ’s sticks.
Irvine-intervention! Dylan thrust ahead and muscled over with the last play of the game. The conversion was kicked by Grant and Nelson salvaged an improbable 27-25 triumph. Nelson have won the tournament 27 times and five times in the last seven years.
Whanganui Collegiate beat Wellington College 24-15 in the consolation final. Stafford Lithgow (2) and Henry Strang scored tries with three conversions and a penalty added by Shaun O'Leary. Stanley Solomon kicked an early penalty for Wellington who were otherwise chasing the game, despite tries from Sam Meo and Tofuka Paongo.
Whanganui failed to win a single quad match from 2007 to 2017. Under the guidance of Englishman Steve Simpson they have restored a flagging reputation. They are currently third in the Central North Island series with six victories in seven matches, and almost certainly guaranteed a semi-final place in a tourney that features perennially strong opposition like: Wesley College, Lindisfarne College, St Paul’s Collegiate, Feilding High School and St Peter’s Cambridge.
On day one Nelson College defeated Whanganui Collegiate 41-14 and the hosts edged Wellington College 28-23 in another genuine thriller.
Nelson and Whanganui started at a breakneck speed with three cracking tries scored in the first 10 minutes. Gradually the Nelson pack assumed control with productive lineout drives and an assertive scrum. The halftime score was 17-7. Nelson scored quickly after the break to make it 24-7 at which point Whanganui were unlikely winners, despite some daring and occasionally clinical back play.
It was perhaps ironic then lock Harvey Mayer and hooker Adam Beard were the source of Whanganui’s tries. O’Leary added two conversions and beside centre Waqa Waqaicece was constructive and dangerous.
Baleisomosomo was damaging and his try under the posts in the 37th minute was a rich reward. Irvine was busy and bustling, and crashed over from a maul. Grant ran a steady ship at ten and Inch had the last say.
It took an inspired period of 10 minutes for Christ’s College to overcome Wellington College 28-23. In a game of frequent lead changes, Wellington scored their third, and most spectacular, try with about 20 minutes remaining to nudge ahead 20-17.
Rampant wing Josh Williams barged down the left touchline to help the visitors wriggle out of their territory. The ball was then transferred right for No.8 Ashton Teau who chipped ahead. A chase ensured and hooker Michael Gordon gathered on the fly, outpacing a pack of retreating chasers.
Shearer then employed his boot with equally damaging effect, cross kicking for fullback Angus Hammett who gathered on the full, stumbled in an ankle tap a metre before the sideline, and fired inside to No.8 Hendrix ‘Voodoo Child’ Taylor who touched down.
Shearer added two further penalties to stretch Christ’s advantage to 28-20. Taylor spearheaded an imperious forward effort which suggested Wellington would wilt completely. However, Wellington rallied and a Stanley Solomon penalty sliced the deficit to five forcing Christ’s into tackle mode for the remainder of time.
With the support of a boisterous crowd, Christ’s started strongly and captain Johnny Lee opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Lee was briefly subdued when Wellington second-five Ben Gordon and Williams breached the defense out wide but the classy blindside showed his resolve with a second try as Christ’s lead was 15-12 at the interval.
A shout out to the gruff voiced Sideline commentator. All four matches were announced with boundless enthusiasm.
Quadrangular Tournament history:
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