University have completed a remarkable turnaround from a poor 2016 season to claim the Gallaher Shield for Auckland club rugby supremacy, downing the defending champs.

They did it with the sun on their backs at Eden Park by controlling field position, scoring tries at key moments and muscling up to the big, physical and aggressive Suburbs pack.
Leading the way for Varsity was livewire openside flanker Antonio Kirikiri, man of the match, again signed by the Manawatu Turbos, who had hands in creating and saving tries, lock Lyndon Dunshea, No 8 Uini Fetalaiga and tighthead prop Marcel Renata, who scored a try.

It threatened to unravel for Varsity when experienced halfback Brenton Helleur was forced to leave the field with a bad knock to the head. But his replacement Henry Saker was sparky and gutsy.

Suburbs had their moments, and sought to break out using wide passes from captain Carl Perry to the outsides. But other than the odd thrust by fullback Jona Sawailau, and a fine try by flanker Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz from a quick lineout, they could not make sufficient headway against the committed students.


There was jubilation at fulltime from the core of supporters in blue as they annexed their second title in the last 20 years.

In 2016 Varsity placed 10th, losing the Portola Trophy final to Eden, but they have hit back hard this season, playing consistently good rugby to win their 18th senior championship since 1888.

University 39 (Uini Fetalaiga, Marcel Renata, Antonio Ripata, Sam Lawson, Lyndon Dunshea, Mike King tries; Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald 3 con, pen)
Suburbs 18 (Bruno Tuivai, Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz, Sailosi Vatubua tries; Carl Perry pen)
HT: 13-5