Nelson College’s superb season isn’t over yet after winning the UC Championship in a pulsating final against Christchurch Boys High School on Saturday.
Nelson trailed by eight points inside the first minute of the second half, but a dominant twenty-minute period for the hosts clinched its first title in 12 years.
Skipper, man of the match, and player of the tournament, Anton Segner, scored two crucial tries to seal the 35-31 victory. While standing under their own posts and momentum firmly with the visitors, Nelson’s captain went about bringing his side back in the contest.
“When we were down, I tried to keep the boys as calm and collected as possible. I’ve said it a lot, but our problem at the time was just the fact we didn’t have any ball and you can’t win a rugby game without a rugby ball.”
His words helped inspire a remarkable comeback as Nelson produced 24 unanswered points to claim the title.
Anton will now lead his side into the South Island final against Otago Boys.
“We were not just playing for the school, but the whole city of Nelson,” Segner says.
He says his side showed incredible resilience to stage a comeback on the high-pressure stage, but the job isn’t over yet.
“Very excited about the win but also excited to get back to work for this Saturday.”
Anton says a big focus for them going into this game was enjoying it and playing with smiles on their faces.
“I tried to reiterate that, as I know that we play best when we are having fun.”
Anton was seen consoling a heartbroken Christchurch captain Maximilian Hughes following the win.
“I felt a huge sense of understanding for Maxi as the game was so close and Christchurch Boys carries so much pride in their rugby programme. But I just told him that he can hold his head high as he has been leading the boys extremely well all season and has done so well to make it this far too.”
The German powerhouse was in typically outstanding form while fullback Daniel Rogers produced his best performance of the year with an incredible display on attack. Nelson was stunned inside the first two minutes as prop Benjamin Lopas powered over to silence the home crowd.
Nelson were falling off early tackles and Christchurch cashed in as fullback Benjamin Hassall finished off a sharp set piece move. The top qualifiers looked flustered, making a number of mistakes and giving away needless penalties to the well-structured Christchurch side.
Two pilfers in quick succession from skipper Anton saw Nelson finally begin to string some moves together. The side then produced a scintillating back line move from kick off.
Ollie Inch was brought down metres from the line but Nelson recycled quickly as Taya Brown put Connor Johnston in the corner.
It was a disastrous start to the second half for Nelson. Christchurch struck first with Keegan McGregor picking off an intercept to score under the bar.
Nelson didn’t take long to reply though. After a quiet first half Ben Faingaanuku injected himself and sent Rogers away for his side’s second.
Still trailing, Nelson needed a serious swing in momentum.
Step up, Anton Segner.
The ever-present flanker found himself in space and strolled over to take the lead before turning down an easy shot at goal and putting the result beyond doubt with his second try.
Christchurch offered its fans a late glimmer of hope with two late consolation tries to Fabian Holland and replacement Josh Taula, but it was Nelson’s day with the supporter’s club erupting on the final whistle.
Anton says it was a proud moment in his final game at home but hopes there are more memories to be made.
“I am hoping and confident that we can take our current momentum into this week’s trainings and the game Saturday.”
Nelson will travel south this weekend in a bid for a spot in the coveted top four championship.
“Overall, extremely proud of the boys for making it such a memorable weekend and definitely looking forward to the next challenge.”
Nelson: 35 (Rogers, Segner 2, Johnston tries, Barton 3 pens, 3 cons)
Christchurch: 31 (Lopas, Hassall, McGregor, Holland tries, Lewis 3 cons)