Nelson College booked itself a spot in the prestigious Quad final after grinding out a 29-26 win over Wellington College on day one this afternoon.
It was an enthralling encounter on the Nelson College front field, Nelson combating Wellington’s size with sheer aggression and determination.
After a tit-for-tat first half which saw five tries scored, the second saw a more subdued affair as Nelson resisted a fierce Wellington comeback.
Midfielder Keaton Fry was sensational for the hosts while skipper Charlie Perkins’ influence continues to grow.
The match was Nelson’s first game in a fortnight and coach Jono Phillips says it showed
“The first half we played the game we wanted to play and the second half we just couldn’t maintain the continuity.”
However, despite the second half lull, Nelson had done enough to see off the boys from the capital to set up a showdown with Christ’s College on Thursday.
Jono says there is plenty to improve between now and the final.
“Our set piece is not where it needs to be, and we will have to fix that very quickly.”
After being beaten by Christs earlier in the year courtesy of three tries in the final six minutes, Jono says Nelson will need to keep its intensity up for the full 70.
Overnight rain meant a sodden ground underfoot while a swirling breeze also made for tricky conditions.
A healthy crowd greeted the sides and Nelson took less than five minutes to strike through its powerhouse flanker Netani Baleisomosomo.
Wellington responded immediately as Johnny Maiava burst straight through the Nelson midfield to go in under the bar.
It was a gripping first half with some scintillating skill on display and brutal defence.
Nelson got one back through number eight Jacob Nehe-Manihera but Wellington again responded, nuggety winger Josh Williams skinning Nic Sauria to score in the corner.
Williams was proving a handful on the wing and Wellington again went close, denied only by some staunch defence.
Halfback Will Thornalley then reclaimed the lead for the hosts after a superb interplay with his winger Adam Schwass as Nelson took a 19-12 half-time lead.
A Dylan Irvine try on the back of a surging rolling maul put Nelson further ahead after the break, however it would be the last territory the hosts would enjoy for some time.
After a sustained period on attack, Tofuka Paongo, who was dangerous throughout, went in to bring Wellington right back in the hunt at 24-19 with time ticking away.
However, winger Nelesoni Malaulau quashed Wellington’s hopes as he finished off a slick movement to seal the result.
Maiava second a from a superb cross-kick but it would only be a consolation as time ran out for Wellington.
The win will now see Nelson meet Christ’s in the final on Thursday.
Kick off 12.30pm.
Nelson 29 (Baleisomosomo, Nehe-Manihera, Irvine, Thornalley, Malaulau, tries, Grant 2 cons)
Wellington 26 (Maiava 2, Williams, Paongo, tries, Waikari-Jones 3 cons)