While it was the crop of former Colts who helped deliver victory for Neddies at the Foreshore last week, it was a couple of old heads playing lead roles in Saturday’s epic away win over Wests at Bennett Park.
Taking to the field in glorious conditions after wins in reserves and thirds and a narrow loss in fourths, the Neddies premier grade team struck early with a brilliant individual try to Kauri Cudd, now back in the 15 jumper.
But if playing into the sun and wind wasn’t hard enough, things got much tougher soon after when a red card to prop Hadlee Hay-Horton reduced Neddies to 14 players with more than 70 minutes left to play.
That forced one of the old heads, prop Travis Church, onto the field early. And despite being reduced to a seven man scrum, the Neddies pack stood resolute. Behind that pack was the evergreen Nathan Roberts, whose performance at halfback was reminiscent of his form 11 years earlier when (with significantly less tattoos) he became the 12th Neddies player to win the coveted PG Hampshire Trophy.
Tries to Heath Tessmann and winger Liam Van Der Westhuizen saw Neddies go to the break with 17-10 lead.
With the game very much in the balance and a player down, Neddies had to step up in the second half. And step up they did to a man, perhaps epitomised most by the efforts of dynamic flanker Aiden Laxton. They call this bloke the horse, so whatever you do back him each-way at his next start.
When Wests scored to tie things up at 17-apiece, it was the turn of ice man Louis Saunders-Loder to step up when it mattered, nailing a critical long range penalty to give Neddies a 20-17 lead.
When Tevin Ferris scored under the posts, Neddies were out to a 27-17 lead. And while Wests crossed the line for a late try, Neddies were deserved 27-22 winners.
This was a game which many of the hardened Third Half supporters rated as the best they had seen for many moons. And it spoke volumes about the stuff Tony Ball’s troops are made of.
Another Neddies product showing the same courage and determination later that night was Mike Ruru, who was inspirational for the Rebels against the Bulls in South Africa.
Saturday sees the action return to the Foreshore as Neddies host ARKs, who are back in premier grade this season. Trivia note: Neddies supporters with long memories will recall that back in 1987, ARKs came away with a boil-over 18-17 win over a star-studded Neddies team (ET, Bam, Snake Kani, Tonk Tuoro, Gavin Bermingham, Reg Walters, Spotty etc) at the Foreshore. Leading the charge for ARKs that day was the rugged Nudge Edwards, who went on to become one of the best loose forwards to wear the Royal Blue of Neddies and whose son Tane also played premier grade at the Foreshore.
Remember, if you don’t go to catch up with your mates at the rugby, you risk missing out on games like Saturday’s epic encounter at Bennett Park.
So be there. Be loud. Be proud. GO NEDDIES!!