Rams vs. Giants: A Perfect Start to Rams Title Defence

It was a perfect start to the Sal’s NBL season for the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams as they hoisted their 2023 championship banner just moments before stepping on court to deliver a strong 79-69 win over the NBS Nelson Giants.

Both teams went into battle minus a few stars – the Rams still awaiting the arrival of imports KJ Buffen and MJ Walker, while young Kiwi star Walter Brown is in Australia chasing a title with the Tasmania Jackjumpers – the Giants without captain Sam Dempster who is sidelined with a foot injury, and still with two import spots to add to the mix.

Played in front of a sell-out crowd at Cowles Stadium and beamed live across TikTok in another new initiative by the League, the impressive Rams blew the cobwebs out with captain Taylor Britt (20 points, 8 assists) at his crafty best.

In his first game, Australian import Lachie Olbrich (Illawarra Hawks) showed his work rate and competitiveness, proving to be a real menace every time he went near the ball. He also provided the epic highlight of the night with an entertaining dunk in the second quarter.

New Giants forward Dan Fotu dominated the opening quarter, draining 12 points (finished with 18 points) and proving to be more than a handful for the Rams. Britt dropped 10 points of his own early, the difference at quarter time favouring the home team, 21-20.

The Rams started hot in the second term, building a nine-point lead, before a quick Mike Fitchett timeout settled the Giants and they dragged back the gap as Alex McNaught and Dan Grida got busy, while young Aston Inwood added some spark of the bench.

Down 36-42 at the half, one of the biggest concerns for the Giants was on the glass where the Rams held a decisive edge 30-17, leading to a whopping 14 second chance points.

The Rams started the second half on fire, enjoying an 13-2 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter to build a 17-point lead that proved too tough for the Giants to claw back.

Though heading home with a loss ahead of their opening home game on Sunday against the Franklin Bulls, the Giants coaching staff will have been happy with what they saw from young Nick Davidson (11 points), who also starred in the earlier Sky Broadband Rapid League game.

The only negative for the Rams was a lowly 2/22 shooting from beyond the arc, something they will put down to a bit of first game rust, but a stat they will want to fix quickly ahead of a trip north to play the Bulls next week.

But the opening of the 2024 season belongs to the Rams, the perfect way to start their title defence and more than enough indicators to show they will again be a force in 2024. For the Giants, some inconsistent patches and the 37-57 beatdown on the glass will be concerning.

Final: Canterbury Rams 79 defeated Nelson Giants 69

Leading Players

Rams: Taylor Britt (20 points, 8 assists), Lachlan Olbrich (15 points, 10 rebounds), Max Darling (15 points, 8 rebounds)

Giants: Dan Fotu (18 points), Dan Grida (15points), Alex McNaught (11 points), Nick Davidson (11 points)

MVP Votes:

Taylor Britt (Rams) - 10 votes

Dan Fotu (Giants) - 8 votes

Lachlan Olbrich (Rams) - 6 votes

Max Darling (Rams) - 3 votes

Dan Grida (Giants) - 3 votes


Sky Broadband Rapid League game:

Earlier in the evening, history was made in when the BBQ Direct Canterbury Rams and NBS Nelson Giants played in the world’s first men’s Rapid League game. The four-by-four-minute game featuring only the players coming off the bench on the following Sal’s NBL game featured rising young stars on both teams.

A tight opening quarter gave way in a second term dominated by the Giants, the visitors going on a 12-2 run to open a 21-10 lead at the half-time break. Nick Davidson showed his class with 7 points.

The Giants held firm with superior shooting through a quickfire third quarter, Davidson adding two more baskets to help his team build a commanding 27-14 advantage.

Mana Martin did all he could to get the Rams moving early in the fourth quarter, but again the Giants steadied with Aston Inwood showing his strength at both ends for the Giants.

The 34-21 win by the Giants was highlighted by a 56% shooting clip (13/23), seven assists, five steals and a perfect 6/6 shooting from the foul line.

Davidson, an U17 national representative at the 2022 Asia Cup, was the star for the Giants on a history making night for the Sky Broadband Rapid League.


Result: Canterbury Rams (21) lost to Nelson Giants (34)

Leading Players

Rams: Mana Martin 7 points, Tama Isaac 4 points.

Giants: Nick Davidson 13 points, Aston Inwood 5 points & 5 rebounds.

MVP Votes:

Nick Davidson (Giants) - 10 votes

Mana Martin (Rams) - 8 votes

Aston Inwood (Giants) - 6 votes

Kaleb Chamberlain (Giants) - 3 votes

Tama Isaac (Rams) - 3 votes


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