Five sides remain in the hunt for a Top Six finish going into the final game of the first round in the Hawkins Metro Premier competition on Saturday afternoon.
Only defending champions, Lincoln University, Christchurch and Marist-Albion have secured their spots. High School Old Boys are almost guaranteed but Linwood, New Brighton, Burnside, Shirley and Sydenham are all within five competition points of each other meaning an intriguing final round of matches.
(8th) SHIRLEY 27pts vs (5th) LINWOOD 29pts
It will be a virtual semi-final at Burwood Park when Shirley host Linwood on their “Club Day.” The match also doubles as a Lionel Hunter Trophy Match.
Linwood bounced back last weekend from their loss at the hands of Christchurch the week before to register a 31-12 win and will take the upper hand into Saturdays contest knowing even a couple of bonus points might well get them across the line.
Shirley fought well against Christchurch last week before going down 10-14 so, despite the loss they should take plenty of confidence from that outing.
Both sides have won five of their ten matches this season, Although Linwood sits further up the table after scoring a last gasp penalty to earn a draw with New Brighton earlier in the season.
(3rd) MARIST-ALBION 36pts vs (2nd) CHRISTCHURCH 42pts
Marist-Albion will host Christchurch at Edgar MacIntosh Park. Both teams are already assured a Top Six finish although there will be some feeling in this one.
Four of the Marist-Albion squad will play against their former club for the first time after they helped the Christchurch Premier Colts side to an unbeaten championship in 2018.
Marist have had an impressive season so far boasting a 7-win, 3-loss record, the most notable being a victory over Lincoln Uni to lift the DCL Shield.
Christchurch have been beaten only once in 2019 and have an impressive defensive record under new coach Kieran Kite. The red-and-blacks will have Crusader, Quinten Strange starting at lock to bolster their side, although if recent weeks are anything to go by they don’t need a lot of extra help in their pack.
(7th) BURNSIDE 27pts vs (1st) LINCOLN UNIVERSITY 43pts
Burnside are coming off back-to-back wins as they make a late play for a Top Six placing but will come up against the strongest of oppositions at Burnside Park.
Lincoln will look to qualify in first place, coming back strongly after a mid-season hiccup when they lost two matches on the trot, one to a struggling Sumner.
(11th) BELFAST 13pts vs (6th) NEW BRIGHTON 28pts
This one could be a banana-skin for New Brighton as they look to defend the DCL Shield against an ever-improving Belfast side at Sheldon Park.
The Cobras have backed up their win three weeks ago against University with two string outings against Sydenham and Burnside. Belfast we’re extremely unlucky not to beat Sydenham, only losing in injury time and their 8-point loss to Burnside was another effort full of improvement. They’re clearly a young side are one to watch in the future.
New Brighton looked in trouble a little less than a month ago. Since then, they have won three on the trot and have fate in their own hands knowing a win will offer them the chance to go one better than last season.
(9th) SYDENHAM 27pts vs (12th) UNIVERSITY 0pts
Two sides that will be disappointed in their 2019 campaign will meet at Sydenham Park.
Although Sydenham can mathematically make the Top Six the chances are slim at best. They have won four matches during the competition, three of those in the opening three weekends before they were ravaged by injuries. Word has it they’re on about their 5th Hooker, so match experience is in short supply at the Cashmere club.
University are yet to claim a point during the competition. Jared Brixton, University RDO said his side are going through a rebuilding phase, something that unfortunately tends to happen to the students every three or four seasons.
(10th) SUMNER 19pts vs (4th) OLD BOYS 32pts
The Wave will look to finish the first round of the competition on a high when they meet Old Boys at St. Leonards, which always has a rowdy crowd.
Sumner made a late play winning three on the trot to put themselves in contention for a Top Six finish but back-to-back losses to Burnside and New Brighton has put paid to that.
Old Boys boast a six-win, four-loss record with mixed results in the last month of the competition. They have not won back-to-back matches since the start of May. Although Old Boys are almost guaranteed a position in the Top Six, they know a single point will assure that is a reality.
Image: Rozelle may photography – srfc