University learn lessons to lift premier prospects
After struggling through to the Hawkins Trophy section of Christchurch's premier club rugby competition, University have emerged in the second half of the season as one of the teams to beat.
They upset the apple cart last week by beating cup winners Burnside and then added their second win on Saturday, downing New Brighton 27-18.
They now sit clear leaders, with High School Old Boys chasing hard, on the back of a ruthless 47-24 victory over Marist Albion.
Burnside turned around their loss last week to beat Sydenham 37-26.
University 27, New Brighton 18
Patrick Osborne scoring tries is nothing new but scoring a try from 90 metres, virtually untouched and under the posts, is a special sight. The flying wing - a member of the Crusaders wider squad - produced the major turning point in University's win.
From a charge-down, Osborne gathered and ran the almost the length of the field to score and shift his side out to a 17-6 lead.
Rhys Llewellyn added another try to extend the lead, with points coming from the boot of Sam Lawson.
Varsity coach Victor Simpson had asked his side to go back to doing the basics well and it worked on Saturday.
"Too often we were trying to play like it was Super Rugby, so we have boiled it right down to doing the little things well," Simpson said.
He said the coming of age of his front row was another key factor, with props Mitch Graham and Gareth Reynolds both shining, as did man of the match Sam Toulmin.
New Brighton never gave up and went hard at University in the closing quarter.
HSOB 47, Marist Albion 24
Marist Albion headed to the halftime break at Rugby Park on Saturday feeling rather confident.
Up by four points, they looked to have the wood on their HSOB opponents, but soon after the start of the second half the HSOB machine kicked into gear and dismantled their opposition. HSOB halfback Ellery Wilson controlled his forwards well and fed his superior backs crisp ball, which they used expertly.
Wing Josh Taylor scored two well-worked tries in the first half before Wilson, massive prop Paea Fa'anunu, Vern Holden and Robbie Thompson followed in the second.
"It's good to be able to finally show everyone what we are capable of," coach Aaron Mauger said.
"I thought our second half was very good, especially defensively, but it's onwards and upwards from here on."
Both Marist props, Kit Vertogen and Marce Tau lango, scored tries, as did halfback David Woods but a scoreless second half left them without what could be a vital bonus point and without the DCL Shield.
Old Boys' become the eighth club to hold the shield this season.
Burnside 37, Sydenham 26
Burnside coach Pete Manson calls last week's loss to Uni versity a first-round hangover but Saturday's performance showed they've well and truly recovered.
The cup winners got things back on track but Manson is yet to be convinced things are where they should be.
Despite running in five tries, two of which went to returning captain Mikaele Tuu'u, the Burnside squad were guilty of sloppy defending at times.
"It's good to get the winning feeling back, but we have plenty of work-ons this week," Manson said.
"At one stage I think we were out to 27-6 but Sydenham kept coming at us and didn't give up."
Sydenham, who drew with HSOB last week, will be buoyed by their second-half comeback, with Johnny McNicholl again producing a stand out performance. Tyler Bleyendaal had a strong - and improved - game at first-five.
In the plate, Linwood made it two from two with a tough 22-18 win over Lincoln University. Linwood attacked for long periods but were rewarded with only the one try, while Zac Southen's boot accounted for 17 points.
Christchurch also picked up their second win of the new competition with a grinding victory over an improving Belfast outfit 21-17.
Centre Matt Thatcher had a standout game for the winning side scoring a try and causing trouble for the opposing defence throughout the match.
Shirley outplayed Sumner to win 31-10 in the other game. The platform was set by their superior forward pack who dominated the match with a huge weight advantage.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should South African teams be ditched from Super Rugby?Related story: Andrew Mehrtens: Let's ditch South Africa