Nelson halfback Loui Harvey dives over to score a first half try against Wanderers on Saturday. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Stoke, Nelson record first up losses

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The club rugby season started with a hiss on Saturday, unfortunately for Nelson and Stoke it was the country teams making all the noise.
Accessman Stoke travelled to Richmond to take on fierce rivals Waimea Old Boys but were stung by the try-scoring nous of fullback James Lowe, who bagged a hattrick. Down 20-0 after 20 minutes, Stoke made a better fist of the second half scoring two tries by the three quarter mark and closing the gap to just four points.
But their run came too late and Waimea scored a late try to win the game 30-19.Stoke coach Willem Van Niekerk says he had some “loud words” with his players at half time but was happy with how they fought back in the second half.
“They showed character and that was pleasing. I was very happy with how we came back into the game.”
In Brightwater, a depleted Nelson side lost 39-19 to Wanderers after going the entire 2012 season unbeaten.
Despite holding their own in the first half, Nelson fell behind against the side coach Peter Grigg expects to be title favourites. “I believe they’re going to be the team to be chasing after this year. They seem to be well organised as a club and as a team, they were well prepared,” he says.
Nelson have lost a host of top players with flanker Shane Christie joining Tom Marshall at the Crusaders, Tasman Makos Andrew Goodman and Robbie Malneek have gone to ply their trade in Europe while another core group of experienced players including James Foster, James Hadfield, Jake Cooley, Dan Hyatt, Steve Alfed and Kim Bateman have all gone elsewhere.
But even with the considerable number of departures, Peter says the side was still confident it could beat Wanderers and praised the efforts of first five James Lash. “We were unbeaten last year so we’ve got a winning mentality but we also have to be realistic going forward. Regardless of what team we put out I think there will always be pressure on Nelson to perform and there is always that expectation.”
He says the side struggled at lineout time, and spent a lot of the match on defence, which means the set-piece will be the key focus at training over the next two weeks.