Three-peat for Lin­coln Univer­sity

The Press - - Sport - BREN­DON EGAN

Half­back Jack Strat­ton la­belled it the ‘‘eas­i­est try’’ of his ca­reer, but it proved the mo­ment that sparked a slug­gish Lin­coln Univer­sity into gear.

Lin­coln Univer­sity cap­tured their third straight Can­ter­bury Metropoli­tan Tro­phy ti­tle on Sun­day, over­com­ing a fastfin­ish­ing Can­ter­bury Univer­sity 25-19 at Rugby Park. In do­ing so, they be­came the first side since the dom­i­nant Sy­den­ham team, who won four con­sec­u­tive ti­tles be­tween 1996-99, to achieve a Tro­phy three-peat.

Lin­coln were sloppy in the first half, fail­ing to cap­i­talise on a wealth of pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory in­side the Univer­sity 22 and trailed 5-3 at half­time.

What­ever coaches Dave Per­rin, Ben Blair and Be­van Sis­son ut­tered at the main break did the trick as Lin­coln pun­ished their Univer­sity coun­ter­parts, scor­ing two tries within the open­ing six min­utes of the sec­ond half.

Strat­ton, play­ing his 50th game, got over for the first in for­tu­itous cir­cum­stances af­ter a pass from full­back Caleb Mak­ene hit a Univer­sity de­fender and bounced back into his di­rec­tion.

It was the lift Lin­coln needed, quickly turn­ing a 5-3 deficit into a 25-5 ad­van­tage by the 61st minute, such is their class and abil­ity to pun­ish the op­po­si­tion.

‘‘I think it bounced off some­one. It was a bit of ping pong, but it’s prob­a­bly the eas­i­est try I’ll ever get in my life,’’ Strat­ton said. ‘‘We were a bit on edge and there was a bit of anx­i­ety [in the first half]. We did stuff up a cou­ple of early op­por­tu­ni­ties. We talked about tak­ing those in the sec­ond half.’’

Cap­i­talise on their chances they did with right wing Josh McKay crash­ing over in the cor­ner, just four min­utes af­ter Strat­ton’s ef­fort. A penalty from Brett Cameron and a third Lin­coln try to re­place­ment front rower Troy Hal­lett had them in com­plete con­trol at 25-5.

Univer­sity could have eas­ily folded, but fin­ished pow­er­fully in the fi­nal quar­ter with Lin­coln’s Jesse Hous­ton in the sin­bin for the last 10 min­utes. They hit back through tries to lock Caleb Aper­a­hama and im­pres­sive No 8 Brad He­mopo, who charged over with three min­utes left to make it 25-19.

Aper­a­hama pro­duced a barn­storm­ing run down the mid­dle of the field in the dy­ing mo­ments, but couldn’t get the off­load away. Univer­sity cap­tain Sam God­win saluted his side, who ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions in get­ting through to the fi­nal af­ter an in­con­sis­tent first round. They were play­ing in their first Tro­phy fi­nal since 2011, hav­ing last won the ti­tle in 1990.

‘‘Es­pe­cially from where we’ve come from – pretty slow start to the sea­son. We’ve kind of just hit our reins in the fi­nal few weeks of the sea­son.’’ God­win lamented missed op­por­tu­ni­ties on at­tack, es­pe­cially in the first half, be­liev­ing they needed a larger lead at half­time.

‘‘There were plenty of [chances]. It was hard to get across that line. Their ‘D’ was awe­some.’’

Strat­ton, who cap­tained Can­ter­bury in their 71-5 Ran­furly Shield de­fence against Wan­ganui last month, didn’t have long to bask in the tri­umph, quickly turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Fri­day’s chal­lenge against Mid Can­ter­bury in Ash­bur­ton.

To achieve three ti­tles on the bounce with vastly dif­fer­ent play­ing groups was an achieve­ment to savour, he said. Only skip­per Chris Gawler, hooker Nick Wer­ahiko, half­back Ere Enari, lock Jack Pow­ell and full­back Mak­ene have ap­peared in all three fi­nal vic­to­ries.

‘‘It means a huge amount,’’ Strat­ton said. ‘‘It was the goal at the start of the year. It’s three years, but it’s one year each year with a dif­fer­ent group. We had a goal for this group and to fin­ish it off is re­ally spe­cial.’’

Mean­while, New Brighton cap­tured the mid­dle tier Plate fi­nal, edg­ing Sum­ner 19-17. Shirley ended their cen­te­nary sea­son on a high, se­cur­ing the bot­tom four Bowl ti­tle over­com­ing Belfast 13-8.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Lin­coln Univer­sity play­ers and of­fi­cials are all smiles af­ter cap­tur­ing their third straight Can­ter­bury Metropoli­tan Tro­phy fi­nal on Sun­day.

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