Camped on its own line for 20 minutes, a determined defensive display to repel a relentless attack summed up Nelson College’s season.
Whanganui Collegiate threw everything it had at Nelson in the final quarter of a bruising battle on a miserable Wellington afternoon last week.
Ahead 13-7, Nelson held on for a dramatic win to claim the coveted Quadrangular Tournament title.
The courage shown by the side was indicative of a strong brotherhood the team has developed.
“The boys dug deep for each other and showed plenty of guts,” says manager Peter Grigg.
With inspirational skipper Anton Segnar sitting on the sidelines with a knee injury, stand-in captain Fergus Hughes says it was the most intense experience of his life.
“It almost felt inevitable they were going to score, but in the end our heart and desire came through.”
Fergus says they felt like they won the game about four times, but the referee continued to march Nelson back to its line.
The blindside flanker says, once the whistle finally blew it was pure jubilation.
“We were so spent we could barely celebrate.”
Nelson made just one replacement during the final, with 14 men playing the full 70 minutes.
“That is testament to our conditioning,” says Peter.
Anton says it was a stressful watch from the sideline.
“That defence shows how close we are and how tight the brotherhood is in the team and how hard we are willing to work for each other.”
While Anton was a part of the side that won quad in Nelson in 2017, he says to do it again in Wellington brought a huge sense of pride.
Conditions dictated a forward dominated game in the capital.
“Wet, cold and windy, it was horrendous,” says Peter.
Whanganui hadn’t won the prestigious tournament since 1991, so were well motivated.
Nelson would open the scoring through the boot of Niko Barton before Collegiate replied with a try to lock Hunter Morrison.
Halfback Mason Lund answered with a sneaky dart down the blind to put Nelson back in front.
Louis Carmine then crashed over after a long-sustained period of attack to put Nelson six ahead.
However, the pressure was amplified as the weather worsened and Nelson began copping it from the referee.
Fergus says he didn’t have to say much to his troops as the onslaught ensued.
“In that situation I didn’t have to say much, it was all about self-motivation to defend our line,” Fergus says.
After an eternity tackling themselves into the turf, Nelson survived the assault to grind out a famous victory.
“Fergus showed outstanding leadership,” says Peter.
College now enter a two-week break for school holidays. Fergus and Anton will go into Crusaders Knights camp with ten other Nelson College members before resuming the last three rounds of the UC Championship.
“Now we want to remain hungry because that UC is a big goal for us,” Anton says.
The side has three more games in the round robin, against St Thomas, Lincoln and Mid-Canterbury.
Nelson has dropped only one game to date and currently sit on top of the table.
Though its schedule requires a lot of travel, Peter says they have turned this to their advantage.
“We have a tough draw with only four home games, but we turned the amount of travel into a positive by using it to bring the team closer.”