The Buller U 52 kg primary school rugby team have just returned from their week-long Seddon Shield tournament. This year the tournament was held in Motueka.
There is a long history to the tournament that was first discussed in 1933 by two Nelson teachers. 1934 saw the first games played between Nelson, Golden-Bay Motueka, Marlborough, West Coast and Buller, the five original provinces that made up the senior rugby Seddon Shield districts. Buller was the inaugural winner in 1934 and won the tournament again in 1935.
What makes this tournament unique is that Golden Bay Motueka, and Nelson, play in it as separate union again, and not as part of the Nelson Bays union. During the week the old rivalry certainly came out again, in a friendly way.
Over the 84 years since the first games were played there have been 82 tournaments held. There were no matches played in 1938 due to an epidemic and nothing in 1942 because of petrol restrictions.
After the official weigh-in on the Sunday, where all players must be under 52 kg, the Buller side certainly had no problems. In fact, ten of the nineteen players were under 40 kg, giving Buller a real lightweight side.
Monday’s opening ceremony had to be transferred from the main ground, Sports Centre Motueka, to the Riwaka ground because of wet weather. Unfortunately, the grounds didn’t hold up and it turned into an old fashioned mud slog for the teams. Buller had the bye on day one and watched as Nelson narrowly defeated Golden Bay Motueka, and Marlborough held on to defeat West Coast.
Days two and three matches were transferred to the idyllic Rangers Rugby Grounds at Upper Moutere. By now the sun was out and the ground was conducive to running rugby.
Over these two days the Buller side, although not giving in at any stage, found themselves outclassed by firstly Nelson and then Golden Bay Motueka. Buller used their forwards to create opportunities, but any loose ball saw these teams run it wide to out flank the Buller defence.
Buller forwards, Blake Craddock, Blake Jack, Kobe Brownlee, Kye Neame and Keir Barry stood up from the first game and were still battling at the final match on the Friday. Another player who stood out was Ryan Fox who was converted to a tight forward for the week and relished the play.
Thursday saw the tournament transferred back to Sports Centre Motueka. Playing their third match in a row on the Thursday against old rivals West Coast, these two sides really turned it on. Both teams scored five tries each, with Coast converting three tries and Buller only converting one for West Coast to win 31 – 27. While the usual suspects stood out in the forwards, backs to have a good game were Evo Ridley for his leadership, Isiah Marshall, Corbin Dent, Ben Shierny and Mania Roberts for his tackling.
On the Friday Buller had to regroup for their fourth game in a row. Up against the unbeaten Marlborough side the Buller boys knew that they had a big game on their hands. Marlborough had been the most skilful side on display all week. They had a talented five eighth who was capable of kicking a ball 50 metres plus to clear his line and a mobile forward pack.
Against Buller, Marlborough struggled in the forwards as Craddock, Brownlee, Jack, Barry, Neame, Chase McManaway and Fox challenged for possession. Marlborough went to their backs to stretch the Buller defence to win the game, and the Shield.
During the week the boys had been awarded points for their play on a 3,2,1 basis towards the “Ford McGrath Memorial Trophy.” Ten different players had gained points in these games. After Friday’s final game three players ended up sharing the trophy, Evo Ridley, Kobe Brownlee and Blake Craddock. Manager, Barry Townrow, presented the trophy to all three and congratulated them on their efforts.
At the presentation luncheon following all the matches, Marlborough were presented with the Shield, but the highlight for the Buller side was the announcing of the Tournament Team. Blake Craddock, Kye Neame and Isaiah Marshall were all named in the team, with Craddock being named as captain. Another loud cheer then went up as the “Player of the Tournament” was named as Buller’s Blake Craddock. This player had led by example all week and had stood out in the selectors’ eyes.
Next year’s tournament will be held in Blenheim in the July holidays.