Stoke prop Blair Prinsep splashes over for the match-winning try against Nelson. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport NZ.

Stoke to meet Marist in final

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The Nelson sub-union finalists have been found after two major upsets in the NPD Tasman Trophy on Saturday.

Stoke will meet Marist in the final on June 4 after they beat the competition favourites in a thrilling encounter at Neale Park.

Nelson were looking to reassert their dominance in the competition, after a couple of uninspiring performances over the last fortnight, meanwhile Stoke were coming off a heavy loss to Marist.

Referee Mike Lash was officiating his 50th fixture as the two teams trudged out onto a sodden pitch.

Nelson had two early opportunities to strike first but were clearly feeling the pressure of finals footy, making sloppy and uncharacteristic mistakes.
In contrast, the visitors looked sharp in the opening exchanges. Stoke fullback Sam Chamberlain and winger Tomas Aoke formed a lethal combination out wide, helping open the scoring with a break out from inside their 22.

Rupena Parkinson split the Nelson defence open, setting up Aoke, who called on his league experience with an acrobatic dive in the left-hand corner.

He would cross for his second soon after, a huge bust by lock Isei Lewaqai setting the former age-grade Warrior away.

Nelson’s forward pack then made their own statement, marching Stoke back 20 metres with a beautifully constructed lineout drive, but in what would be the story of the day for the hosts, they spilt the pill just as they were looking dangerous.

Handling errors were killing the hosts as they went into half-time trailing 10-0.

Jack Grooby extended the lead to 13 shortly after the break as Stoke continued to nullify the attacking threats of Willy Havili and Chris Kerslake with their swarming defence.

Nelson slowly began to string phases together, hammering away at the Stoke line. Stokes defence was relentless but after repeated infringements Lash gave a warning to Chamberlain’s men.

From a quick tap Nelson finally crossed the chalk through their impressive young prop Kershawl Sykes-Martin.

Havili added the extras to bring Nelson within a converted try with 15 remaining.
The try seemed to finally click Nelson into gear, a break by number 8 Isiah Miller from the restart setting Nelson hot on attack.

Stoke winger Chris Little was then sent to the bin after he was unable to control an intercept attempt.

Down to 14 men, Stoke continued to tackle themselves into the ground until Nelson again coughed up the ball inside Stoke territory.
Chamberlain broke out from the turnover before he handed it off to prop Blair Prinsep who thundered down the touchline, sprinting 40 metres to seal a stunning 18-7 upset.

Captain Chamberlain says the win has been a long time coming for his side.

“We have worked bloody hard and things haven’t quite clicked this year, but we had a lot of belief in our coaches and faith in the process, so this is reward for a lot of hard work.”

Chamberlain says his side’s defence pleased him the most.

“Our forwards have been unreal in the last few weeks and really set the platform. We talked at the start of the season about how defence wins championships and I’m incredibly proud with the way the boys stood up today.”

He says they are looking forward to a tough showdown against Marist next month.
The green machine booked their berth in the final after upsetting Waimea Old Boys at Jubilee Park.

In a high scoring affair, Marist beat the favoured Waimea outfit 44-24.

Marist captain Tyler Mckinnon-Stevenson says his side made a slow start in the semi.

“We let ourselves down in the first half with accuracy, botching up some opportunities.”
However, Tyler says in the second half, they “took it up a notch.”

“Our fitness and size kept them on the back foot and forced them to make mistakes and we took advantage of that.”

Renwick and Waitohi will meet in the final of the Marlborough sub-union rugby competition.

The top qualifiers defeated East Coast 25-7 at Lansdowne Park while Waitohi had a 26-17 win over Moutere.

The finals are scheduled for Queen’s Birthday Weekend Monday, June 4.