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Tasman Union offers excitement [Marl Express op-ed]

If Thursday's Press Cup rugby clash between Marlborough Boys' College and Nelson College was any indication, the talent pool of young rugby players in the Tasman Union is very exciting.

Broadcast live around New Zealand on Sky's rugby channel, what a fantastic advertisement for the game here and congratulations to all those involved in organising the match, presenting the college front field in such good condition and to the coaches of both teams for preparing their teams so well.

Several players caught my eye as potential Tasman Makos. Both halfback/first-five combinations individually are fine players, but the Nelson duo of halfback Mitchell Drummond and first-five Mitchell Hunt were, for me, two of the stars of the game. MBCs Kenny Hill and first-five Jarome Leonard also have X-factor ability.

Nelson College winger Kerehama Barrett is an excitement machine, big, strong, plenty of pace. The Nelson College forwards set a good platform and I liked the look of lock Michael Curry.

Lock Michael Tuipolotu and prop Atu Moli impressed in the MBC pack, Moli in particular looking set for a big future. Replacement prop Bevan Moody also caught the eye with a strong last quarter and he's a big unit.

Don't underestimate the coaching abilities of the respective camps. Nelson College coach Bill Liddell is vastly experienced and guided Nelson Bays to an NPC title. Gray Cornelius and Martyn Vercoe are doing a good job progressing the MBC team and having set up a dedicated rugby class at the school is a huge boost for the up-and-coming talent.

Leon MacDonald's contribution to Tasman and Marlborough rugby in particular, should not be under-estimated. He is the assistant Tasman Makos coach, but the tireless work he puts in assisting coach MBC and other young promising players around the province is priceless.

Staying on the subject of rugby. What a breath of fresh air the Tasman Trophy competition is. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching the Nelson teams in action.

The two matches I've watched so far, Waitohi v WOB and Awatere v Wakatu Marist, were quite contrasting. Waitohi battled hard to edge out WOB and Awatere were well beaten by Wakatu Marist.

Both matches had an added edge because of the Marlborough v Nelson rivalry, and even when Awatere were well beaten on Saturday 24-50, they played very well in patches.

The longer this competition goes on the closer the teams will get and I reckon that in a couple of years we'll have a fantastic competition that Marlborough teams will be quite capable of winning.

It seems the competition is being played in a good spirit, it is hard fought, but the players look like they are enjoying the challenge and the new faces and styles they are up against each week.