What a difference a couple of minutes make in a game of footy; the emotion on players, coaches and supporters’ faces told of a rollercoaster story that both made and broke a few hearts.
As the teams shook hands in a rather subdued fashion, following New Brighton’s 45-24 victory over Christchurch, thinking they had both missed out on semi-final spots, news trickled through that Old Boys had scored a stoppage time try to beat Marist-Albion, which relegated Marist to fifth and elevated New Brighton into next week’s final four.
Old Boys led for most of the game and with the scores locked at 13-all midway through the second spell, Marist’s Steve Phillips missed a penalty that he would have normally kicked nine times out of ten. To rub salt into the wound Alex Harford kicked a penalty a couple of minutes later which put Old Boys ahead instead.
An inspired run from Elliott Smith, who carved up the Old Boys defence, and led to a Moeaki Toma try looked to have sealed the win for the visitors at Bob Deans. And with a one try lead, they looked comfortable defending on their own line for the last couple of minutes, as Old Boys bashed away making no real inroads.
That was until Will Hamilton decided it was time to try something different, tossing the ball to the left for Lupeti Fihaki, who then, with a 30-metre bullet picked out replacement wing Jaron Chamberlain right on the chest to score in the corner, ultimately ending the semi-final dreams for Marist in 2019, and with it their hopes of retaining the DCL Shield.
Despite losing home ground advantage for their first finals appearance in 24 years, Shirley should take some momentum into next week’s semi-final against Lincoln Uni, after they trailed 23-3 at the split before coming back at the students, scoring two unanswered tries in the space of five minutes. The Vikings threw everything at Lincoln in the final ten minutes but were unable to grab themselves a bonus point which would have had them level with Lincoln on 14 points.
Sam Gilbert was Lincoln’s best. His positional play and tactical kicking game made it very difficult for Shirley in the first 40. Rameka Poihipi was again strong at first-five. While Siua Maile had a strong game for Shirley at No.8, something that is now expected from the Canterbury NPC squad member.
Back at Christchurch Park, a lapse in concentration in the space of three minutes in the second half from the home side helped New Brighton to a comfortable 42-24 win against an injury-stricken Christchurch, condemning the red-and-blacks to a middle four semi-final against the high-flying Sydenham next weekend.
Within the blink of an eye New Brighton were 14-0 up, but before you could blink again the match was level. A try right on half-time for the seasiders extended their lead to 11 points with Christchurch reducing that deficit 10 minutes after oranges. Kickers Dan Dorgan and Scott Allin put on a master class, slotting a perfect ten from ten between them, some of which were from the side-line.
Christchurch and Marist will be joined by Sydenham and Burnside in the middle four play-offs, with both teams continuing on their merry way, securing wins against Sumner and University respectively.
Sydenham ended phase two with a perfect 25 points after securing five bonus-point wins. With several players now back from injury, who had halted their season midway through phase one, they are showing that they are a force once again as they now set their sights on Christchurch.
Burnside didn’t have things all their own way and needed to work hard to secure their 38-21 win over University. The Vipers haven’t had a fun season, unable to pick up a win but have improved vastly in the past three weeks earning one draw.
Belfast have held off Linwood in a thriller at the Snake pit 26-25 meaning they will now host University next weekend. Josh Morell was impressive at second-five although Mpho Mbiyozo said everybody stood up and contributed to the win.
HAWKINS PREMIER TROPHY SEMI-FINALS
Old Boys (1st) v New Brighton (4th) and Lincoln (2nd) v Shirley (3rd)
PLATE SEMI FINALS
Marist v Burnside and Christchurch v Sydenham
Belfast v University and Linwood v Sumner
Images: HSOB and Bill King
Words: Glenn Matthews