Chastened Canterbury rediscover winning ways
THE smile on the face of Canterbury captain Tim Bateman said it all. Order had been restored.
Canterbury erased an 11-point halftime deficit for a 41-28 win in a top-of-the-table encounter against their North Harbour hosts at QBE Stadium yesterday.
The defending Mitre 10 Cup Premiership champions had been thumped in a shocking 46-point loss to Wellington last week,.
But it was no surprise New Zealand provincial rugby’s most dominant team of the past decade was desperate to stave off another defeat and in a classy second-half showing it was simply too slick.
Canterbury scored four tries after the break to eventually canter to victory, ensuring they returned to their familiar winning ways and retained their spot at the head of the Premiership standings.
Bateman said it had been immensely satisfying to respond to not only their 60-14 drubbing by Wellington, but also a lacklustre first half display.
‘‘Yeah, it was, actually. Harbour are a really strong side and we knew it was going to be a real fight coming up here.
‘‘We always struggle against Harbour, too, they’re one of those sides who are difficult to play when they get rolling.
‘‘We played with a pretty strong wind in the first half and were down 11 points so we weren’t MITRE 10 CUP that happy going into the sheds but to see the way we bounced back was pretty cool.’’
Featuring the competition’s best offloading sides, the match promised plenty of excitement.
And, much to the pleasure of most of the 4121 in attendance, it was Harbour who executed more effectively in an open and entertaining opening 40 minutes.
Just three minutes had expired when the hosts capitalised on a failed Canterbury attack, going 80 metres as lock Brandon Nansen made the initial charge before Bryn Gatland put wing Matt Duffie away for an early 7-0 lead.
The first of at least two scrambling try-saving efforts from the Harbour defence followed when Richie Mo’unga was dragged down just a few metres short.
But the Canterbury first fiveeighth opened that same defence up again just a few minutes later and this time he wasn’t denied, selling an expert dummy and slicing through before adding the extras to level the scores.
Harbour immediately hit back through Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, the rising Blues lock barging over from close range after a powerful bust off the back of a scrum from No 8 Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa and more last-ditch defence denied Canterbury midfielder Rob Thompson on the half-hour mark.
Canterbury did reduce the margin through a Mo’unga penalty but the home team quickly responded yet again, young Chiefs outside back Shaun Stevenson launching a counter-attack to put Ben Volavola away, with secondfive Harrison Groundwater crashing over two passes later.
However, the visitors immediately proved their desperation in the second spell, dotting down twice within five minutes of the restart.
Matt Duffie launches an attack for North Harbour against Canterbury at Albany yesterday.