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Nelson College crowned Crusaders Champions

Nelson College celebrates its Miles Toyota Championship win after a hard-fought final against Christ's. Photo: Shuttersport.

Jonty Dine

They left it late, but Nelson College has kept its season alive with a dramatic 22-20 victory over Christ's College today.

Nelson trailled for 67 minutes of the Miles Toyota Championship final, until a late try to winger Timoci Sauira sealed the win and Nelson's third Crusaders Schools title.

Sauira says it felt like an age for skipper Ollie Inch's skip pass to arrive.

"The pressure was all on me, but I just kept my head down and ran to the line."

Captain Inch was elated following the enthralling encounter.

By Jonty Dine [Nelson Weekly]. Photograph: Shuttersport

They left it late, but Nelson College has kept its season alive with a dramatic 22-20 victory over Christ's College today.

Nelson trailled for 67 minutes of the Miles Toyota Championship final, until a late try to winger Timoci Sauira sealed the win and Nelson's third Crusaders Schools title.

Sauira says it felt like an age for skipper Ollie Inch's skip pass to arrive.

"The pressure was all on me, but I just kept my head down and ran to the line."

Captain Inch was elated following the enthralling encounter.

"Bloody stoked aye, for a lot of our boys it's could have been the last game they will put the blue hoops on so awesome to earn ourselves another game."

Nelson was dominant in the early exchanges but unable to turn a wealth of territory and possession into points.

Down 15-3 at halftime, Nelson would score three second half tries in a thrilling comeback.

"We knew we could do it, we just had to believe and trust in the processes," says Ollie.

Inch has been involved in a number of triumphs in his three years in the 1st XV.

He played in three Quad wins on the trot and the 2019 championship winning side but says as captain, this victory ranks right up there.

"This one is pretty special, just so proud of the boys, they have worked so hard this season."

Nelson will now head south to meet Otago Boys to decide the South Island champions for 2021.

"We will enjoy today and then focus on next week."

The match was always destined to be a nail biter with just two points separating the traditional rivals in their previous six encounters.

Conditions were perfect at Trafalgar Park with a small but vocal band of supporters granted access due to the limitations of Alert Level 2.

Fullback Nic Sauira was incredibly prominent with three strong runs in opening three minutes as Nelson looked in imperious form.

Christ’s took twelve minutes to enter Nelson territory but would come away with the opening try on its first venture inside the 22 as Sam Idiens finished off spectacularly in the right hand corner.

Nic Shearer’s boot ensured a definitive swing in momentum as the Christ’s first five powerful and accurate punts consistently found open real estate.

The visitors would strike again on the back of a Nelson error as winger Jack Boucher was the beneficiary of a deft offload and ran it around under the bar.

With three minutes until the half, Nelson was awarded a penalty in front which Cooper Grant converted to put his side on the board.

However, Shearer responded almost immediately with three of his own to send the sides to the break at 15-3.

Nelson came out firing in the second and its most prolific try scorer in Netani Baleisomosomo went over for one of his most crucial as he got brought his side right back into the contest.

Christ’s quickly reasserted its dominance through its pack who mauled Nelson backwards 30 metres before Shearer’s pinpoint cross kick found the waiting arms of fullback Angus Hammett to score.

The tit-for-tat continued when Wil Thornalley sniped blind and linked with Jayden Waharoa who showed incredible determination to find the chalk.

Grant nailed the difficult conversion to reduce the margin to three.

The visitors enjoyed a sustained period on attack as Nelson struggled to get out of its own 22.

They were unable to convert however and Nelson eventually got themselves back on attack.

Skipper Ollie Inch threw a skip pass to Timoci Sauira to score in the left corner to give Nelson the lead for the first time in the final.

Thornalley showed a cool head as he controlled possession for the final minutes before Grant hammered the ball into touch to lose out a famous win.

Scorers:

Nelson College 22 (Netani Baleisomosomo, Jayden Waharoa, Timoci Sauira, tries, Cooper Grant 2 cons, 1 pen) def Christ’s College 20 (Sam Idiens, Jack Boucher, Angus Hammett, tries, Nic Shearer 1 con, 1 pen)