Sun, Jul 31, 2022 5:16 PM

Red Devils hold off Buller challengers

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Peter Jones

The Marlborough Red Devils repelled a stern Buller challenge for rugby’s coveted Seddon Shield, battling their way to a 28-24 victory in Renwick today.

Heavy overnight rain saw the match moved at late notice from a water-logged Lansdowne Park to the Renwick Domain, with the ground cutting up as the match progressed.

The home side thrived in the firmer going at the start of the match, racing out to a 21-0 lead after 15 minutes. The Devils found space both through the middle and on the flanks, accurate ball movement creating tries to No 8 Jadyn Holdaway, winger Mataiasi Pangai and flanker Cody Weir, all three converted by first five Mitch Smith.

As the centre of the park began to resemble a mud puddle the challengers started to come into their own.

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Jadyn Holdaway runs in Marlborough's first try.

A soft try to imposing No 8 Isei Lewaqai, plus a conversion and penalty to first five Jack Parker hauled the Heartland Championship side back into the frame then, when they were awarded a penalty try for obstruction, three minutes before the halftime break, the margin was just four and the holder’s grip on the shield was looking tenuous.

However, some fresh legs at halftime and a stiffened defensive resolve slowed Buller’s momentum after oranges, before the home side began to assert themselves once more.

At the heart of their resurgence was their scrum dominance, which created forward momentum and brought a string of penalties.

Marlborough’s fourth try came after 65 minutes, replacement No 8 Viliami Napa’a bursting over the line from a 5m scrum, with Buller’s eight backpedalling rapidly.

A fourth conversion from Smith gave the holders a 28-17 lead which was enough in the trying conditions.

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Devils' flanker Cody Weir on the burst.

Buller had the final say with a try and conversion on fulltime but it was mere consolation for such a spirited challenge.

Marlborough captain Ben Finau was at the heart of the home side’s efforts, the vastly-experienced halfback sniping around the fringes and distributing accurately in slippery conditions.

“We came out with a hiss and a roar,” he said, “our forwards gave us go forward with their pick-and-goes and our backs finished well.

“Our subs made a big impact in the second half, especially the forwards. We just looked to do the simple things well and got the job done.”

Ben was a part of the 2019 team which held onto the shield against Nelson, the last time it was contested, and said he was proud to be captain of a side which were able to defend it.

“We have only had maybe one and a half trainings for this game but the boys got together and said ‘we are not different clubs, we are one Marlborough side’ and we are looking to represent our community and bring the Devils back.”

Marlborough had to dig deep to keep Buller at bay, locks Matt McCormick and Jack Powell, Weir, Holdaway, hooker Taimi Fangatua plus replacements Taine Cragg-Love and Napa’a strong up front. Smith’s kicking and distribution were a key out wide, while midfielders Zac Harrison Jones and Ben Filipo impressed on both attack and defence.

Parker, lock Te Puoho Stephens, flanker Jamie Tinetti, replacement halfback James Lash and fullback Jesse Pitman-Joass stood out for the gallant Coasters.

Next weekend the Devils will attempt to defend the shield against another Heartland side, West Coast, in Murchison.

Scores: Marlborough Red Devils 28 (Jadyn Holdaway, Mataiasi Pangai, Cody Weir, Viliami Napa’a tries, Mitch Smith 4 con) Buller 24 (Isei Lewaqai, Mitieli Kaloudigibeci, penalty try, Jack Parker pen, 2 con). HT: 21-17 Marlborough

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