It wasn’t pretty, but Nelson celebrated its 150th anniversary in style, winning the Tasman Trophy after a brutal battle with Marist on Saturday.
In atrocious conditions at Neale Park, the game was always going to be won up front and Nelson’s pack, led by the uncompromising duo of Isaiah Miller and Ethan Blackadder, out-muscled Marist for a 16-6 victory.
A scoreless second half and a sole penalty try made for a dire spectacle, however that mattered little to Nelson captain Chris Kerslake.
“Just stoked, it’s the best feeling, we have worked so hard all year, struggled for numbers but we made it pay on the day, so I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”
Chris says the win came on the back of a dogged performance from his pack.
“That’s what it came down to, it’s a muddy pitch and the forwards showed a lot of heart.”
Nelson coach Kade Heke says he was ecstatic, the win marking nine months of hard work.
“At times we have battled, but today the players really stood up for each other.”
He says they couldn’t have had a better opposition than the Green Machine.
“They attacked us hard all game and we were able to shut them down.”
Losing skipper Tyler McKinnon-Stevenson says, while Marist is a young side with a bright future, the loss is hard to take.
“Just absolutely gutted, we have put in a lot of effort all season and it’s always hard when you don’t get the result you want.”
The game’s only try came in the 15th minute. After decimating Marist’s scrum, referee Mike Lash had little choice but to award a seven pointer to the hosts.
Willy Havili and James Hawkey traded penalty goals late in the first before a turning point right on the stroke of half time, Nelson opting to take an ambitious penalty shot from 45 metres out.
“I just told captain that I’d have a go, I gave it a belt and it just went over,” Havili says.
Havili’s shot hit the crossbar and crept over the black dot to put Nelson 10 ahead at the break.
Kade says he had confidence in his young first five.
“About four years ago, I watched his brother (All Black, David) slot a 60-metre kick, so when he lined it up, I backed him.”
While the intensity picked up in the second, so too did the error rate, a bruising but sloppy scoreless half closing the season.
Havili says the the game was going to come down to whoever made the least mistakes.
“We just did the little things right throughout the day.”
Willy says there will no doubt be a few beers shared tonight.
“It will be a big night ahead, a few of the boys are leaving so we will be sure to celebrate.”