Nelson College first five-eighth Taine Robinson crosses over for a try.
The Nelson College First XV rugby team secured a UC Championship semifinal berth with a hard fought 23-20 victory over a brave St Thomas of Canterbury College side on Monday.
Both teams were playing their second game in three days but matched each other in physicality in a bruising encounter played in surprisingly good conditions in Christchurch.
Nelson began strongly and a long and patient period of play resulted in a try and penalty to give them a marginal advantage.
Graham Urquhart passes the ball out of the ruck.
It was soon negated as St Thomas displayed nice patterns to deprive the visitors of the ball as they maintained steady continuity. A bullocking try under the posts was just reward for the sustained period of dominance.
* Waimea outmuscled by TBHS
Nelson's Iliasia Gabiral finished a fine backline surge with a show of strength and speed and then goal-kicking lock Cais Faatili completed the scoring for the hosts in the first half.
Caleb Havili attempts to bust through the St Thomas defence.
Neither team were prepared to concede in the second half as a finely executed attacking move allowed replacement wing Noah Gosling to level the scores mid-way through the second half.
St Thomas first five eighth Patrick Elia dictated play well and was a dangerous threat with the ball on attack. He marshalled his big troops around the field admirably and fed off to his big ball runners accurately.
The ferocity of the St Thomas attack was matched by the intensity of the Nelson defence as the deadlock was broken by a Leicester Faingaanuku penalty goal.
Nelson finally gained some breathing space when forwards and backs combined well to allow centre Caleb Coventry to score in the right hand corner.
St Thomas were still not done and they had the final say with a try in the final minutes.
While Nelson will be pleased with the victory they would have been disappointed with their inability to dictate play and maintain ball security.
They host UC Championship leaders Timaru Boys' High School on Saturday and while both teams have now guaranteed a top four spot the Moascar Cup will only add further spice to the fixture.
Nelson College 23 (Caleb Coventry, Iliasia Gabiral, Taine Robinson tries, Leicester Faingaanuku con, 2 pen) St Thomas of Canterbury College 20 (Noah Gosling 2, Seth Taumati tries, Cais Faatili con, pen) HT: 15-10