The Press

Clash of the students looms


Bring on the battle of the students. No sooner had the mud settled on University’s 24-15 Canterbury Metro Trophy semi-final victory over Sydenham on Sunday, skipper Sam Godwin was already casting his mind ahead to the final.

Sunday’s decider promises to be an intriguing clash with twotime defending champions Lincoln University taking on their Canterbury University rivals at Rugby Park.

University upset Lincoln University 29-27 in the final round of the top six last weekend and you can guarantee it won’t be lost on the country students in the buildup to the final.

Lincoln University toppled Christchur­ch 29-5 in the first semifinal on Saturday to seal their berth.

‘‘We know it’s going to be a hard game, even harder than last week. We need to step it up,’’ blindside flanker Godwin said.

‘‘We’re not going to rely on playing like we are now. It’s going to be a big week ahead.’’

University haven’t won the Canterbury Metro Trophy title since 1990, so long in fact, only one member of their squad was born before then.

They qualified for their first Trophy final since 2011 with a gutsy second half defensive effort against first round winners Sydenham at South Hagley Park’s Hospital Corner ground. It was the perfect 100th senior game present for hard-working lock Ryan O’Sullivan.

The game was originally supposed to be played on Saturday, but was postponed 24 hours because of the deluge which hit the Canterbury region, causing a waterlogge­d pitch.

Leading 17-15, University were under the pump for most of the second half, being camped in their own half and starved of possession.

Sydenham had their fair share of attacking chances, but through their own errors and some stoic defence from the students couldn’t break through.

They were left to lament two missed penalties in the 57th and 60th minute from first five Kieran Lindsay, both within kickable range.

Desperate to get in front, Sydenham chucked the ball wide with five minutes left, which was gobbled up by University replacemen­t wing Nic Brooker, who raced away to score the clinching try.

Godwin praised the ‘‘character’’ of his team in the second half, admitting other sides might have leaked points given how much they were under pressure defensivel­y.

Not many would have tipped University to make the final at the start of the season. Godwin said they had grown as the winter had gone on and were hitting their straps when it counted.

‘‘There’s quite a big part of our team that’s been here building for this moment for about four or five years. So it’s awesome to get [through to the final].

‘‘We had a pretty shaky start to the season – ups and downs and some losses against some lower teams. We’ve been building to the second half of the season and this year has been really good.’’

One of the few concerns for University was a chest injury to fringe Crusaders wing Jone Macilai, who came off early in the second half. A University spokesman said after the game it was nothing serious.

Lincoln University’s 29-5 semifinal win was built around their forwards, who outmuscled and outplayed their Christchur­ch counterpar­ts up front. Hooker Nick Werahiko, who became the first Lincoln University senior player to bring up 100 games last month, was at the heart of their win, scoring three of the four tries.

Lincoln University co-coach Dave Perrin played down their favouritis­m for another title, arguing it was a new year with several players, who weren’t part of their previous success.

‘‘Everybody else talks about it, but us. The club is concentrat­ing on what we can do. We’ve got another opportunit­y to win another final. It’s a bonus, really.’’

Lincoln took a 12-5 lead into halftime, but Christchur­ch were outgunned 17-0 in the second half. Perrin demanded a vast improvemen­t from his charges after last week’s final round 29-27 loss to University. He said their accuracy with possession, organisati­on in defence and work rate from the forwards were all pleasing aspects of the win.

Werahiko, whose tries all came close to the line, earned plaudits from Perrin for his industriou­s showing.

‘‘I don’t think he would have had to run any more than eight metres [for any of them]. It’s great for Nick. He’s our highest tryscorer since we took over [coaching] in 2011 – not bad for a hooker.’’

In other games played, New Brighton overcame High School Old Boys 24-3 in the middle tier Plate semi-final at Rawhiti Domain. Shirley produced a strong second half performanc­e in the wet to topple Linwood 38-10 at Burwood Park in the bottom four Bowl semi-final.

The other two matches on Saturday, the middle tier Plate semi-final between Burnside and Sumner, and the Bowl semi-final between Belfast and Marist Albion were both postponed due to the bad weather.

 ?? PHOTO: JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ ?? University players celebrate beating Sydenham 24-15 in their semi-final at Hospital Corner on Sunday to book a place in the Canterbury Metro Trophy final.
PHOTO: JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ University players celebrate beating Sydenham 24-15 in their semi-final at Hospital Corner on Sunday to book a place in the Canterbury Metro Trophy final.

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