Surging UC staying focused on securing playoff spot

Canterbury University’s Ollie Burra shapes to kick during his side’s 38-7 win over Belfast. PHOTO...
Canterbury University’s Ollie Burra shapes to kick during his side’s 38-7 win over Belfast. PHOTO: NATHAN WALTERS
An uptick in form has seen Canterbury University rocket up the Metro Premiership table to sit behind table-topping Burnside.

The side won just one of their first four games of the season but have been consistent since then, winning their last four on the bounce – one of which was a 37-34 over competition leaders Burnside.

Head coach Daniel O’Brien said the side were always confident the results would come.

“We’ve probably had a tough draw to start with and we knew that was always going to be the case,” he said.

“If you look closely at those results, one was a draw, and two of them were losses by six points or less, against teams that are traditionally in the top four or five in the comp.

“So from the outside in, it might have looked like it was dire straits for us, but we knew we were just continuing to evolve our game.”

O’Brien said his side don’t put much focus on table position – the most important thing for them was finishing inside the top eight and making the playoffs.

“We went into the season not really putting that No 1 place up there. I think last year we probably took a few people by surprise finishing top.

“This year it’s not really been a focus. It wasn’t last year, but this year definitely not.”

The side topped the table at the end of the round-robin in 2023 but were knocked out by Linwood in the semi-finals.

UC hold the DCL Shield but O’Brien said it’s not the sole focus of the season.

“Weekly we talk about the importance of the DCL and the history behind it. To get your name on it you have to be holding it at the end of the season, and we went pretty close last year.

“So definitely there’s some motivation in the background, but it’s certainly not what drives us to try and improve and evolve as the weeks go on.”

This weekend UC take on Sumner – whose own winning run was ended by New Brighton last week in the ‘battle of the beaches’ at St Leonard’s Square.

Saturday’s other matches see Burnside host Sydenham, who have faded slightly after a strong start to the season, and Marist Albion visit Christchurch.

Lincoln University host Shirley, while HSOB and New Brighton meet at Rawhiti Domain  and Linwood visit Belfast.

Metro Rugby round 8
New Brighton 20 Sumner 7; Lincoln Uni 62 Christchurch 19; Burnside 32 Linwood 26; Canterbury Uni 38 Belfast 7; Shirley 40 HSOB 15;
Marist Albion 41 Sydenham 17
Round 9 (Saturday 3pm)
Sumner v Canterbury Uni, St Leonard’s Square; Lincoln Uni v Shirley, Lincoln University;
Belfast v Linwood, Sheldon Park; New Brighton v HSOB, Rawhiti Domain; Christchurch v Marist Albion, Christchurch Park; Burnside v Sydenham, Burnside Park
Burnside 32; UC 31; Marist 29; Lincoln Uni 28; Sydenham 27; Sumner 26; HSOB 24; Shirley 21; New Brighton 16; Linwood 15; Belfast 9; Christchurch 6