A nail-biting win 29-21 over Nelson, coupled with three more bonus point victories, saw Marlborough retain the Seddon Shield during the annual under-52kg rugby tournament at Lansdowne Park, with a day to spare.
Played from Monday to Friday, the popular tournament, which has been running since 1934, pits teams from Marlborough, Nelson, Golden Bay-Motueka, West Coast and Buller against each other.
In Wednesday’s key encounter, Marlborough, who have won the tournament on a record 43 occasions, took on arch-rivals Nelson and came away with the spoils in the latter stages of a thriller.
The home side led comfortably at halftime but a Nelson resurgence saw the team in blue go ahead 21-17 with seven minutes to play. However Marlborough, showing the cohesion and teamwork that marked their campaign, scored twice in the dying stages to regain the lead and bag a vital victory.
On Monday, Marlborough opened their campaign with a hard-fought 36-26 win against a dogged Golden Bay Motueka side, then they backed up the next day with a dominant performance against West Coast, prevailing 61-0.
After edging past Nelson on Wednesday they comfortably beat Buller 64-7 on Thursday, meaning they had locked up the tournament despite having a bye on the final day.
The result was a appropriate send-off for coach Andrew Lawson, who has now guided the Marlborough lads to three victories during his four-year tenure.
“They are a good little team this year,” he said, “I’m really happy with the way they went.
“We didn’t have any weaknesses … and our defence was outstanding. We just built phases and then found a bit of magic to score a try.”
Lawson made mention of a few players who had outstanding tournaments, including prop Itaua Ponesi, whose rampaging 60m dash set up the final try in the Nelson match, centre Lolesio Kivalu, halfback Jake Lawson and fullback Logan Flood who pulled off a couple of outstanding try-saving tackles.
“It’s a really good tournament,” he added. “It is skill-based rather than the big boys bashing through and offers a tough week of rugby. I know they are changing [the structure of] junior rep rugby at the moment, but I hope this tournament continues.”
At the event’s conclusion, Itaua Ponesi, Toby McLay-Davis, Ata Obetaia, Finn McKenzie, Jake Lawson, Lolesio Kivalu and Logan Flood were named in the tournament team, Flood being selected as tackler of the tournament.
Monday – Marlborough 36 (Jake Lawson 3, Toby McLay-Davis, Itaua Ponesi, Louie Greig tries, Benji Nation 2 con, Josh Flynn con) Golden Bay Motueka 26.
Tuesday – Marlborough 61 (Toby McLay-Davis, Hunter Shore, Jake Lawson, Leo Marfell, Louie Greig, Harry King, Lolesio Kivalu, Alex Boyce, Benji Nation 2 tries, Leo Marfell 2 con, Josh Flynn con) West Coast 0.
Wednesday – Marlborough 29 (Itaua Ponesi, Ota Obetaia, Finn McKenzie, Benji Nation, Alex Boyce tries, Leo Marfell 2 con) Nelson 21.
Thursday – Marlborough 64 Buller 7.