Old Boys and Shirley are virtually guaranteed semi-final spots after wins against Lincoln and New Brighton respectively, while Marist-Albion wrestled the DCL off Christchurch to climb into the top four after an, at times, spiteful contest.
Sydenham have secured top spot in the bottom six with another bonus point victory while four teams are within two points of each other fighting it out for the other middle four semi-final spots.
Marist-Albion have gone back-to-back beating Christchurch 20-17 at Christchurch Park. Scoring three tries, though not through lack of trying it could have been four. They also turned down numerous opportunities at a penalty goal late in the match despite only leading by three points, choosing to push for a bonus point instead.
All four former Christchurch players in the Marist team had an influence on the result and there was certainly no love lost between the former clubmates. Elliott Smith slotted into first-five for the injured Riley Cormack, scoring a try in the opening 5 minutes and was very vocal about it, while Declan McCormack’s superb pass to set up Nick Lake during the second half was a telling moment.
Marist simply made less mistakes in what was a scrappy game at times, and that eventually was the difference between the sides. Christchurch will now play a knockout match next weekend against New Brighton.
Shirley won a physical “Eastside Derby” 15-9 against New Brighton. The match was predominantly forward orientated with limited chances out wide for either side. New Brighton had a numerical advantage for ten minutes during the first half, but staunch defence from Shirley ensured the seasiders came away with no points during that period. The Vikings were never behind throughout the match as Cullen Moody and Scott Allin traded penalties until the final 15 minutes when the boys in blue started to control the match, Moody adding two more penalties to take the points.
Old Boys took Lincoln back to school, comfortably accounting for the defending champions 48-12 at Lincoln, running in seven tries in the process, two each for wings Oliver Knopp and Luke Glen. Playing into the breeze the Polar Bears led 12-0 at half-time, before using it to their advantage in the second. It was hard to pick a standout for Old Boys with everybody doing their job. Rameka Poihipi was excellent in a losing team scoring a try and setting up the other.
Top 6: Old Boys, Shirley 13, Lincoln 10, Marist 9, New Brighton 8, Christchurch 7
Linwood brought the excitement back into their game again after a stunning second half performance against Sumner. Linwood led 12-7 at the split before scoring another 36 points in the second half to finish up 48-15 victors. Mark Burton led from the front, scoring two tries and having a hand in two others, while skipper Tepasu Thomas’ presence was immense.
University came close to picking up a maiden win for 2019 when they drew 26 all with Belfast. The match was a topsy-turvy encounter which saw the students lead early, before Belfast scored three unanswered tries. UC were back level through the second half at 19 all before both teams scored a try each in the final quarter to share the points.
Sydenham picked up maximum points again and secured a middle four semi-final, although they were pushed in the end. The old adage, it was a game of two halves sums up the clash, with Sydenham leading 21-0 at half-time, before eventually holding on 35-31 after a Burnside try in the final 5 minutes made for a nail biting finish at Sydenham Park.
Bottom 6: Sydenham 20, Burnside 11, Linwood 10, Belfast and Sumner 9, University 4
Words: Glenn Matthews
Image: B King