The Bush-Norton Trophy has its first winner, the DCL Shield has changed hands for the first time in 2020 and the competition has it’s first drawn match of the season are just some of the highlights from Round Seven of the Canstaff Metro Premiership.
Linwood have won a scrappy but intense encounter at Sheldon Park defeating Belfast 24-17 courtesy of a late try from Pita Ah Sue which extended a two-point lead to seven.
It was evident early on that both teams were looking to entertain with plenty of ball movement although that did come with its fair share of errors which frustrated many.
Linwood dominated the first half, making plenty of line breaks although went to half-time only leading 14-7 after an individual try on the whistle from Mark Burton who broke through the defensive line on halfway before swerving past two or three others on his way to the posts.
The half-time score could easily have been 14-7 the other way. Two minutes earlier, the impressive Naibuka Bukeiteivalu was adjudged to have not released the ball in an attempt to score a try in the left corner, being tackled a couple of metres short following a 45m break, a decision that Belfast coach Mpho Mbiyozo was going to query in a chat with the referee’s post-match.
“I thought the Linwood defender had rolled him (Naibuka) toward the line, but I need to look at the video,” Mbiyozo said afterwards.
Belfast did level things up early in the second half before taking the lead after a penalty from Lapu Palelei put the Cobras in front for the first time after 52mins.
Linwood are known as a team that like to “throw the ball around” and their third try was proof of that going the length of the field, starting with a 5m defensive scrum on the left ending with a try for Sharn Robinson in the right corner less than a minute later.
Leading 19-17, Palelei had two attempted penalties waved away which would of seen Belfast hit the front into the final 10mins but it wasn’t to be for the home team, Linwood scoring the next time they found themselves inside the Belfast 22.
Mbiyozo was “gutted” his team did not get the win but admitted it was about standing up and performing in front of their supporters. “This is a performance to be proud of, we have been on the receiving end of some really high scores and we stood up today.”
Linwood coach Sammy Jack pointed to Burton’s try on half-time as a big moment in the match, “it was really crucial for us because you go into the break with that confidence.”
Jack admitting being frustrated at times during the first half. “It’s in our DNA to offload but sometimes we try and score a try instead of taking the gains and building the next phase and building the pressure that way but I certainly don’t want to coach that out of them.”
Amenatave Tukana was a standout for Belfast making plenty of metres up the middle and scoring a try, the equally impressive Bukeiteivalu also deserved of a mention, something the coach was happy about. “They have carried us, and as senior players, lead by example, but it was good to also see the rest of the boys join the party”
Samson Seinafo and Anthony Tailua were electric in the backline for Linwood, able to break the defensive line and create opportunities for the Bulls, both being involved heavily in the leadup to Robinson’s try.
Burnside came from behind to snatch a 23 all draw against New Brighton, a result that could have implications in a month’s time for both teams, come playoff spots. New Brighton coach Ross Martin admitting the result was “bittersweet” although still had belief that the seasiders could make the finals. “I think we were in a similar spot last season and we went on to make the semi-finals.” Burnside’s Bevan Sisson saying his team “didn’t execute the plan as we should have,” and said New Brighton’s defence led by Aaron McCoy and Troy Mangan was “very good.”
Jack McLeod has kicked Sydenham to victory over the previous unbeaten Lincoln University with a perfect day from the tee including two penalties from near halfway. The 23-20 win means the DCL will change hands as Sydenham, who are now the form team of the competition with four wins in a row jump into the top four for the first time. Coach Sid Tauamiti saying he felt the game was won up front. “Brodie (McAllister) was massive for us and Callum King’s repeated efforts on defence was huge.”
University are within touching distance of the top four after backing up to win two on the trot for the first time this season defeating Sumner 43-20 in front of a big crowd at St. Leonards. Sam Cottam was a standout for the students with his leadership and how he was able to apply pressure throughout the game on the opposition. Sumner stuck to their philosophy of “having fun and throwing the ball around” resulting in their biggest points haul in a single match this season. Building towards the future there were three debutants stepping up from the Sumner Colts side and all impressed in their time on the park.
Marist-Albion have well and truly become title contenders with another big win, this time defeating Shirley 33-10 and now sit just two points off Lincoln at the summit of the ladder. Marist matched Shirley’s physicality around the park after being under the pump at scrum time until Will Sunderland came out and managed to even the score there a little bit. Fritz Va’a came on early and was one of the standouts for Marist.
In the other match Christchurch have bounced back without inspirational captain Hugh Renton to record a 23-11 win against Old Boys keeping the red-and-blacks comfortably inside the Top 4.
Points (After Round 7): Lincoln Uni 30, Marist-Albion 28, Christchurch 25, Sydenham 22, Shirley 19, University 18, Linwood 17, Old Boys 16, New Brighton 16, Burnside 15, Sumner 4, Belfast 1