Rugby’s prized Seddon Shield will spend a second summer in Marlborough after the Tasman Red Devils produced a compelling display of wet-weather rugby to beat the Tasman Griffins 21-7 at Lansdowne Park on Saturday.
The Griffins shot out to an early 7-0 lead, courtesy of a Devils’ mistake, but that was the extent of their scoring as the shield holders produced a hungrier display, applying pressure at the breakdown and forcing the visitors into regular errors.
By halftime the Devils led 8-7, courtesy of a try to hooker Billy Collins who was on the back of a lineout drive.
The hosts raised the stakes in the second spell, early pressure resulting in a Corey Bovey penalty and an 11-7 advantage.
Midway through the half he repeated the dose, widening the Devils’ lead to seven points.
The Griffins responded, but were met with enthusiastic defence before the hosts regained field position, replacement midfielder Mike Vaeno bursting through the middle of a scrappy breakdown and dotting down between the uprights.
Bovey’s conversion meant the Griffins needed to score three times to claim the shield, a draw being of no use to the challengers. But by then all the momentum was with their opponents, who continued to harass their rivals at every opportunity and were well on top when the final whistle blew.
Outstanding for the inspired holders were Collins, skipper Seymour Lambert, hard-carrying lock Isaiah Miller, No 8 Jesse MacDonald, flankers Braden Stewart and Taine Cragg-Love, halfback Ben Finau, Bovey, midfielders Jake Cresswell and Ben Filipo, plus Vaeno latterly.
The Griffins were well led by loosie Tim Sail, while fellow flanker Jacob Norris was busy. Locks Tim Dallison and Hopo Taufa, prop Sosefo Vaka, first five Sam Briggs, who kicked accurately in the first spell, plus winger Jamie Spowart stood out for the challengers.
Devils’ coach Mark Stewart said he felt his side were in control for much of the match.
“We made a couple of silly mistakes at the start, maybe a few little nerves there … but the boys stuck to what we wanted to do and they played for the full 80 … Marlborough has always played with pride and passion in the jersey, it means a lot to those guys.
“The boys were just up for the challenge. We had trained well through the week … it’s always a test match between Marlborough and Nelson and our boys were hungrier today which was really pleasing. I’m really proud of them and we’ve got the shield for another season.”
The home side’s skipper, the veteran Lambert, described it as one of the best rep performances he had been involved with, especially after their loss the previous weekend.
“After getting such a pizzling from Buller last weekend, then coming back, regrouping and putting on a performance like that today … it just goes to show that the shield still means a lot to the players and the people round here.
“Since I have been involved with Marlborough rugby that was probably the best, most complete performance from a Marlborough team. And it certainly came at a good time … against a good Nelson team full of players who could really bring some venom.
“To come back from that Buller game, just seven days later and put up a performance like this makes me really proud of the guys.”
Griffins’ coach Billy Guyton was quick to take defeat on the chin, agreeing that the Devils were the better side on the day.
“Definitely, they put big pressure on the breakdown and it was great how they were able to change their game. They adapted better than we did … we put ourselves under pressure and they thrived in that situation.
“It was a reasonably good challenge … but they played in the right areas and once we were under scoreboard pressure little mistakes began to build into bigger errors.”
Red Devils 21 (Billy Collins, Mike Vaeno tries, Corey Bovey 3 pens, con) Griffins 7 (Rahiri Witehira try, Sam Briggs con). HT: 8-7.