Mid Canterbury Combined 1st XV captain Isi Ula worms his way through a gap during Saturday’s UC Championship encounter with Christ’s College. Photo Heather MackenzieA late burst by Christ’s College put to bed Mid Canterbury Combined’s resistance in the UC Championship at the weekend.
Christ’s completed a resounding 54-5 win when their wing Sean Rutherford-Bradford snagged a second half hat-trick which inflated the scoreboard at Ashburton College.
Up until this point, the young Combined outfit, who are still without some key troops, competed hard and managed to rebuff the threats of the Reuben Thorne-coached Christ’s College side for significant periods.
However once Christ’s began emptying their bench in the second spell, Combined’s resolve eventually cracked with the Christchurch school running in eight tries in total.
The fixture was originally slated to have been played at Christ’s home ground, however it is understood it was moved to AshColl following heavy rain in Christchurch last week.
Combined enjoyed the better start as the home team utilised their big ball runners during the initial stages of the game.
There was early joy for the home team when star custodian Charlie Brown, lurking near the contact area, swindled a try following an attacking Mid Canterbury feed.
It would be the only cheer for Combined on the scoreboard as Christ’s proceeded to command possession courtesy of a clinical display from their pack.
Christ’s crossed the chalk in the 12th minute when play was sent down the blindside following a lineout drive with wing Matt Durant sailing to the corner untouched.
Christ’s extended their lead a few minutes later when captain Fletcher Anderson peeled away from a maul to run 20 metres to the line.
Lock Fiti Sa then finished off another raid deep in Combined territory, using his size to brush off would-be tacklers who had spent a large portion of the half defending, to charge to the line.
Although College had raced out to 21-5, they were guilty of trying to force the issue through handling errors and a lack of fluency.
When they did get their hands on the ball, Mid Canterbury made several spirited stabs into College territory, however a lack of support and ruck speed usually rubbed out these opportunities.
Probably the biggest delight for the AshColl faithful came via a crunching tackle in midfield by Otto Markeo on Christ’s fullback Sam Idiens which brought the house down.
The buzz would be short-lived though, as College landed another blow before halftime when loosehead Olly Ryan crashed over in the corner – the visitors again exploiting the five-metre channels.
A 28-5 lead at halftime stretched to 35-5 early in the second half when a relentless lineout drive marched Combined onto their line resulting in a try for hooker Jack Jones.
The encounter descended into a scrappy affair for most of the second half as Combined diffused several of Christ’s counters.
Combined also lost No. 8 Pasi Hala to injury midway through the second half.
However Christ’s finally clicked into gear thanks to their bench, with Rutherford-Bradford finishing off three chances late, one of them a superbly-taken kick and chase.
Christ’s 50-point haul included a deft goalkicking display by Nic Shearer, with the young first five boasting a success rate of more than 87 per cent in this year’s UC Championship.
The Mid Canterbury boys are back home again this weekend where they face Rangiora High School.
By Adam Burns © The Ashburton Guardian - 6 July 2020