Canterbury claim sixth successive title
October 26, 2013
Canterbury's players celebrate their victory in Wellington
© Getty Images
Canterbury claimed their sixth consecutive ITM Cup Premiership title with a clinical performance built on brutal and organised defence, cutting down their errors in the second half and forcing Wellington Lions mistakes from which they capitalised in terms of territory, possession and points.
The Lions led at half-time after 40 minutes that featured a 19 turnovers, 10 from Canterbury, but the visitors restricted their mistakes in the second stanza while suffocating Wellington whenever the hosts had the ball; indeed the Lions looked unlikely to add to their first-half try from Lima Sopoaga, while Canterbury added three five-pointers and could have had more as reward from a stereotypical performance of sustained pressure and taking maximum advantage of errors from their opponents. The experience of George Whitelock, Andy Ellis, and Ryan Crotty proved key, while Patrick Osborne was ever dangerous on the left wing and when he roamed in field.
Canterbury opened the scoring from a Wellington scrum, as Lions scrum-half Frae Wilson kicked a grubber directly to Osborne; the winger claimed the ball and set off down the sideline before backhanding a pass to Ellis. Canterbury attempted thereafter to pin Wellington in their own 22, but the Lions, with the wind at their back, were always able to clear the ball 50 metres with downfield kicks. Canterbury lost their one chance to score another try when Tom Taylor was adjudged to have lost the ball as he stretched for the line.
Canterbury conceded penalties in their own half, and that gifted Sopoaga the chance firstly to land a penalty goal and then to cap a period of dominance by breaking onto a superb pass from Ardea Savea to touch down and convert.
Lima Sopoaga never stopped trying for Wellington Lions in a losing cause © Getty Images
Wellington were their own worst enemies early in the second half, first when Sopoaga had a clearing kick charged down then when Savea hacked the ball straight to Whitelock who charged at the line. The attack sucked Wellington defenders to the breakdown on the left flank, and Canterbury worked the ball right through a long pass from Osborne to Crotty on the opposite wing.
Canterbury camped in Wellington's 22, and they were cruelled twice by the Television Match Official as Joe Moody and Luke Whitelock were denied on video evidence. But they would not be denied again, and Tyler Bleyendaal collected the ball and touched down after Adam Whitelock had cut inside and grounded the ball just short of the line.
Wellington finally got their hands on the ball, and Reg Goodes - who had replaced Moody after a knee injury that cast doubt on the prop's availability for the All Blacks' end-of-year tour - made an impact with charging runs that freed Savea and Sopoaga to probe gaps in the Canterbury defence. Sopoaga kicked a penalty goal to reduce the deficit to six points, and gave the Lions renewed hope, but Taylor responded immediately with his first of the night and George Whitelock was awarded a try in the last act of the game after a breakout run by replacement hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone following another Lions mistake.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with Sportal