Te Rapa end season on top
After one of the more entertaining Waikato club rugby matches this season, Te Rapa took out the Lion Cup final to finish kings of the promotion-relegation division after outlasting University 31-24 at St Andrews Park on Saturday.
Right from the outset, both teams endeavoured to play fast, expansive rugby, but this was matched by an equally stringent defensive effort from both sides, resulting in an excellent spectacle for the large crowd in attendance.
Neither side could gain much in the way of ascendency in the first half.
Te Rapa held a narrow 6-3 lead at halftime after two penalty goals from first five-eighth Nathan George, to one for University by his marker in the No10 jersey, Gavin Donald.
But the match then exploded into life in the second spell with both sides each scoring three quality tries.
Te Rapa's winning margin, as has been the case so often this season, was based on the excellent goalkicking skills of George.
Centre Chauncy Edwardson scored Te Rapa's opening try just two minutes into the second half, pouncing on some loose ball from a Te Rapa handling error then strolling over to score unopposed, with George's simple conversion extending the lead to 13-3.
Almost immediately, University flanker Sean Nixon scored under the posts, finishing off some strong running and clever handling from his side, with Donald's conversion narrowing the score to 13-10.
Te Rapa then dominated play for the next 20 minutes and took the game in this spell.
Deft footwork from right wing Declan O'Donnell saw him touch down just inside the corner flag to score the side's second try, and a short time later his brother Riley on the opposite wing used his considerable pace to beat the University defence and score Te Rapa's third try.
George converted the latter and also kicked a couple of penalty goals to have the home side well ahead going into the last quarter.
University managed to rally and scored two late tries, to outside backs Lance Elrick and Tom Livingstone, both converted by Donald, reducing the final margin to 31-24, but the deficit was too much for the students to make up and Te Rapa now have the Lion Cup secure for the summer months.
Loose forwards Nixon and Sione Taufa were at the forefront of University's effort, but Te Rapa owed their success to the efforts of their classy backline.
Led by the experience of David Bason at halfback, outside him George, Edwardson, and the O'Donnells used the occasion to show their speed and skill and produced a solid win for their club.