Christchurch Boys' High School have won the UC Championship for the ninth time denying Shirley Boys' High School of a maiden title by one point as they did in 2003. It was cracking final played in front of a huge crowd in lush conditions at Rugby Park.
Two thrilling tries scored by Christchurch winger Atu Manu just before and just after halftime proved to be the telling difference. In the 34th minute Christchurch was down 10-6 and had a scrum 30-metres out from their own line. First-Five Alex Harford threw a 20-metre skip pass to centre Matt Jensen who glided into a hole. Jensen linked with Manu who shoved off the last defender and sprinted 30-metres to finish. Early in the second-half Jensen broke from his own 22 and distributed to Manu who bagged his 14th try of the season.
Both sides made an apprehensive start and penalties were traded in the first fifteen minutes. Harford scored first for Christchurch and Taine Jacobs-Lawson responded for Shirley. Shirley was able to create trouble for Christchurch when their forwards run hard and directly close to the ruck.
No.8 and Man of the Match Cruz Topai-Aveai was unstoppable at times and in the 24th minute he bullied his way into the Christchurch 22 before passing to second-five Logan Bell. Bell was tackled short of the line, but managed to rise swiftly to his feet regain the ball and burrow over.
Fifteen minutes into the second-half Shirley was down 16-10, but put together repeat phases allowing reserve flanker McGregor Best to crash over. Christchurch retaliated when No.8 Zachary Wilson scored an outstanding individual try dashing 25-metres on the wing. He beat multiple defenders and scored a try he had no right to. Bell celebrating his 50th match for Shirley scored his second try with about 10 minutes to go.
He drove low through traffic to make it 21-20. Unfortunately the conversion from a relatively handy position drifted wide of the target. It would be the last scoring chance for either team. There wasn't a bad player on the field, but others to really shine included Ewan Milnes (3) and Ben Donkers (7) for Christchurch.
Glen Beardsley (7), Josh Archer (2) and Boris van Bruchem (5) were excellent for Shirley. Christchurch finish the UC Championship with a record of 14 wins in 16 games. They scored 94 tries and will tackle Southland BHS in the South Island final next Saturday for a place at the National Top Four. In Invercargill, Southland halted John McGlashan's winning run of 19 games prevailing 31-17 in the Highlanders final.
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