A tough road trip to Marlborough Boys’ College ended in another heavy defeat, however Mid Canterbury Combined’s coach believes there are plenty of positives heading into next year.
The Spartans were eventually overwhelmed 60-7 in Blenheim with the majority of the points coming in the second half of their final UC Championship encounter.
It was the 12th defeat from 13 starts, however the young side avoided the wooden spoon after Lincoln Combined were thumped by Rangiora High School.
“Compared to last season, we made some goals to stick to, which included to have a full squad for selection in the final game,” head coach Shane Enright said in his match wrap.
Winning their first game in three years was a high point of the season, and the culture was starting to build within the programme, Enright said.
“If we add those together we are on the right track to start 2021 in the right frame of mind.”
There was never going to be a shortage of intent from Marlborough Boys’ College.
Their captain, Monu Moli, who is the younger brother of injured All Blacks and Makos frontrower Atu Moli, was playing his 50th 1st XV game.
“They were always going to be up for this game,” Enright said.
“We had all watched the previous week’s game when they had played Roncalli and we really believed we were in for a chance to come away with the W in this one.”
After some goosebump-inducing hakas were exchanged, the home team charged early to race out to a 12-0 lead.
However Combined responded when first five Thomas Patterson utilised some silky footwork to dive over after lock Pasi Hala’s surging run led the visitors deep into Marlborough territory.
The home team crossed the chalk again before Combined loose forward Millar Newlands was stopped half a metre short of the line, only for an ensuing turnover to result in a try up the other end, which knocked the stuffing out of MCC.
Enright said the moment was a real turning point in the game.
“They were a big strong team, and that cost us in the end.
“But we never gave up, with some huge hits and great runs in the second half.”
Marlborough proceeded to put the pedal to the floor in the second half, adding a further 34 unanswered points following the break.
“Back when Covid-19 hit we had no idea if we would even get a chance to be part of the UC Championship this year.
“But we did.”
– By Adam Burns