Only three rounds out from the Hawkins Cup semi finals and two teams stand heads above the rest – Sydenham and Lincoln University.
Lincoln University – with six starting players and two others on the bench from Canterbury;s Ranfurly Shield defenders – had plenty of firepower in their line-up on Saturday in their 28-20 win over Christchurch.
The students had a comfortable 14-7 lead at the break, aided by Christchurch being reduced to 13 men, but the home side restricted the scoring to a single converted try during that period.
In the second half two Dan Dorgan penalties for Christchurch reduced the lead to 14-13 before a defining moment in the match.
With Christchurch on attack and the try-line in sight, a loose pass which went to ground was swooped on by Lincoln first-five Finn Strawbridge who ran 70m to score. The conversion stretched the lead to 21-13 and put his side in a comfort zone.
Lincoln took the scoreline out to 28-13 with a penalty kick into the corner and a lineout drive produced a try to flanker/lock Jonathan Osborne. Using similar tactics, Christchurch replied through replacement flanker Mathew Taula Fili, who was strong from the bench.
Strawbridge was an asset, not only for his personal points tally of 13 (converting all four tries) but his tactical kicking which aided his side going forward.
First round winners Sydenham will meet Lincoln University this weekend with Lincoln looking for revenge after losing their first encounter by five points.
Sydenham showed injury-hit New Brighton no mercy on Saturday, scoring five tries and running up a 31-0 half-time lead with an almost flawless display.
New Brighton showed moments of fortitude in the second half with both sides producing two converted tries.
University moved into third place by avenging its cup loss to Burnside, but it left it late before doing so. Burnside raced to a 19-0 lead after scoring three tries in the first stanza but the students closed to five points at the break.
University finally took the lead with five minutes to play when inspirational captain Brad Hemopo scored from a pushover scrum. He then made some storming runs to set up replacement halfback Jared Mitchell for a match-sealing win with time up.
In section two of the premier competition, High School Old Boys are the only team with two wins and keep a one-point lead over Sumner and Marist Albion. Old Boys made amends for their first-round loss to Belfast with a decisive 20-point win on the back of two tries by halfback Corey Taylor.
There was a dramatic finish to the Shirley-Sumner clash at Burwood Park. Sumner led 25-19 with nine minutes to play, but Shirley scored in the last minute through Jud Robbins and Nathan Smith was left with a close-range conversion to win the match.
He missed, but was given a reprieve after Sumner players charged too early and made no mistake with his second attempt.
Marist Albion bagged its first win of the round-robin and left Linwood as the only team without a success. The two teams played on Friday night with Marist Albion winning by 13 points.
AT A GLANCE:
At Rawhiti Domain: Sydenham 45 (Ash Hyde 3, Amanaki Nicole, Michael Green, Scott Kelly, Ila Lamositele tries; Pedro Verschea 5 conv) beat New Brighton 14 (Feleti Kaitu’u, Ali Hala tries; Stefan Moir conv; James Mangin conv). HT: 31-0. Referee: Blair Barclay. Sin-bin: Ben Nelson (New Brighton).
At Burnside Park: University 34 (Brad Hemopo 2, Caleb Aperahama, Seamus Bardoul, Trent Lawn, Jared Mitchell tries; Bardoul conv, Myles Thoroughgood conv) beat Burnside 27 (Phil Henderson, Cam Russell, Kane Findlay, Mitch Ellis tries; Dave Smith 2 conv, pen). HT: 17-22. Referee: Kane McBride.
At Chch Park: Lincoln University 28 (Anty Burnett 2, Finn Strawbridge, Jonathan Osborne tries; Strawbridge 4 conv) beat Christchurch 20 (Atu Manu, Mathew Taula-Fili tries; Dan Dorgan 2 conv, 2 pen). HT: 14-7. Referee: James Munro. Sin-bins: Ethan Plaskett, Tim Perry (both Chch).
At Bob Deans 1: High School Old Boys 25 (Corey Taylor 2, Sam Madden tries; Mark Jackman 2 conv, 2 pen) beat Belfast 5 (Vasco Baptista try). HT: 14-0. Referee: Sam O’Reilly.
Shirley 26 (Hayden Mitchell, Nathan Smith, Phil Watson, Jud Robbins tries; Smith 3 conv) beat Sumner 25 (Dylan Nel, Poasa Waqanibau, Nik Cumming, Tom Crozier tries; Cumming conv, pen). HT: 5-3. Referee: Daniel Moore.
Played Friday at South Hagley Park: Marist-Albion 28 (Matthew Morrison, Manasa Mataele, Dylan Lolohea, Moeaki Toma tries; Reilly Cormack 3 conv; Jonty Stewart conv) beat Linwood 15 (Samuel Opetaia 2, Louie Devery tries). HT: 21-0. Referee: Jeremy McAllister.
– additional reporting Game Day