Classy Cantabs defend Shield
SIX Ranfurly Shield defences down, one to go.
Canterbury dispatched Waikato 37-17 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch last night, moving them a step closer to locking up the Log o’ Wood for the summer.
Premiership contenders Taranaki will get a crack at wrestling it from them on Friday night, in a match which will also carry playoff implications.
The red and blacks’ sixth defence this year – and seventh since taking the Shield from Waikato last year – was practically in the bag at halftime.
Waikato will lament the final 10 minutes of the first half, when Canterbury turned a 13-0 lead into a 30-5 buffer at the break.
Highlighted by Richie Mo’unga’s spot-on cross-field kick to rookie wing Josh McKay, the passage of play doomed the visitors, whose fifth consecutive loss buried their already anemic playoff hopes.
To make matters worse for the Mooloo men, a Counties Manukau win over Northland today will ensure they slip into the premiership’s relegation zone.
Last night’s Shield defence wasn’t near as ugly as Canterbury’s 78-5 and 78-20 defences against Counties and Southland respectively, but it was far from a classic.
Any fear Canterbury coach Glenn Delaney’s departure to the Highlanders after one season would hinder the players certainly wasn’t evident judging by the home team’s performance.
While they were uncharacteristically sloppy in the second half, their physicality on defence – something captain Tim Bateman targeted during the week – was a step up from recent weeks.
The bonus-point win propelled them four points clear of Taranaki at the top of the premiership, setting up what should be a belter at AMI Stadium next week.
They will almost certainly have to line up without flanker Jed Brown, who picked up what appeared to be a serious leg injury and had to be helped from the field in the first half.
It’s the latest in a string of serious injuries to Brown, who will join captain Luke Whitelock (knee) on the sidelines.
Other than Canterbury’s lineout, which wasn’t functioning at its usually high standard, there was enough to like about the home side’s performance in the first half half.