Marlborough Boys’ College First XV stumbled at the final hurdle of a topsy-turvy season, losing 22-21 to Rangiora High School in an exciting University of Canterbury Plate final on Saturday.
The home side led 22-7 at halftime, then had enough petrol in the tank to repel a strong MBC second half revival as the Falcons closed to within one point at the final whistle.
Their defeat sees MBC finish sixth in the overall UC championship standings.
MBC’s tries were scored by Tristan Taylor, in the first half, Ben O’Sullivan and Sky Boskett-Barnes while Dylan McManaway landed all three conversions.
Head coach Matt MacDougall said his side made a slow start, which they recovered from, but ultimately left themselves too much to do, although they “had them on the ropes for the last 10 minutes or so”.
“Shell-shocked would be the word I’d use to describe our first half,” said MacDougall.
“They went into their shell a wee bit – let Rangiora play all the rugby and spent the half trying to stop them scoring. We went away from what we have been doing for the last month. We also lost our No 8 [skipper Ollie Lawson] quite early on through injury and that didn’t help.
“At halftime we just told the lads to express themselves, make their decisions and back themselves and it turned into a really tight game.
“Ben [O’Sullivan] forced an intercept which he scored from, then a couple of nice phases set up a try for Sky [Boskett-Barnes] with a couple of minutes to go, but then we panicked a bit and probably the better team won on the day.
“It was a game that was there for the taking but the boys may have been a bit over-awed by the occasion,” he suggested.
MacDougall described the season overall as “inconsistent, but very enjoyable”.
“We played some really nice attacking rugby but they just needed some hard lessons in defence.
“If the other coaches and I could go back and have the season over again we felt we took for granted some basics around defence. Once we got that sorted it fell into place.
“I’m rapt with the way they came home. There are some boys coming back who will have learned a lot from this season. We’ll definitely front up next year with a really good, experienced forward pack but there will be some blooding of some new backs.”
Meanwhile, Nelson College were crowned UC champions on their front field, for the first time since 2007, beating Christchurch Boys’ High School 35-31.
In a pulsating encounter Nelson College skipper Anton Segner scored two crucial second half tries to lead his time to victory, and a place in the South Island final against Otago BHS.
The third-tier UC bowl title was won by Lincoln HS, who beat Shirley HS 29-27.