Air New Zealand Cup - Round 7 Review
Canterbury go top and retain Ranfurly Shield
September 13, 2009

The fear of failure spurred Canterbury to success as they launched their latest reign with the Ranfurly Shield in winning style.

Canterbury comfortably saw off Otago's challenge 36-16 in Christchurch on Saturday, adding five more Air New Zealand Cup points to their collection as they ended the seventh round of the domestic competition sharing first place with Southland on 24 points.

Canterbury possessed a clinical gameplan which served them well in the first half as they led 15-9 on the back of tries to fly-half Stephen Brett and flanker Michael Paterson. Otago were resolute and determined but limited although they stayed very much in the contest thanks to three penalties to rookie first five-eighth Glenn Dickson.

The match was still up for grabs at the interval but this changed quickly after the resumption when Canterbury scored a decisive try to Tim Bateman, who hit a short ball from Brett at pace after he made a half break inside the 22.

The try and Brett's simple conversion gave Canterbury a commanding 22-9 advantage, which was slashed to 22-16 midway through the spell when a controlled lineout drive ended with a try to prop Keith Cameron. A sideline conversion from replacement first-five Michael Witt breathed fresh life into the match entering the final quarter, but Canterbury were up to the challenge as they responded in style with a fine try to replacement centre Casey Laulala.

The home side had the last say when they converted a turnover into their fifth try in the 80th minute, to another replacement in back-row Ash Parker.

Southland had previously laid temporary claim to top spot with a 19-12 victory over Bay of Plenty at Invercargill on Friday.

The hosts beat the previous leaders on the back of a tenacious but far from flawless performance with both teams guilty of numerous mistakes in damp conditions. But Southland emerged victorious from a messy encounter as they registered their fifth win in seven outings.

The first half was a particularly untidy affair punctuated by regular handling errors as both teams failed to control a ball made greasy by light rain. Bay of Plenty were the worst offenders in this regard and they failed to string together successive phases until the half hour mark by which time they were 3-16 behind.

The Southland front row of captain Jamie Mackintosh, Jason Rutledge and Chris King gave their side the upperhand at scrum time, but their lineout did not function as smoothly as Bay of Plenty held sway in this area. The only try of the match came in the 28th minute when Southland lock Joe Tuineau tore through some tiring defence after fly-half Robbie Robinson launched a counter attack from his 22m before finding support from flanker John Hardie.

Robinson was a calming figure for Southland and his three penalties and conversion helped give the home side a handy lead which Mike Delany trimmed with a 49m penalty in the 40th minute. Fly-half Delany made further inroads early in the second half as another two penalties reduced the difference to four points before the intensity level rose appreciably entering the final quarter.

The scoreline did not change until three minute from fulltime when Southland's relentless approach was rewarded with a penalty, which Robinson landed from a wide angle to lift his contribution to 14 points.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Hawke's Bay kept their playoffs hopes alive by beating North Harbour 34-17 in Albany. The five-try win was Hawke's Bay's third of the season and they will be hoping to build momentum off it to make the semi-finals for a third successive year.

Dangerous wing Zac Guildford provided two of their tries while goal-kicking centre Sam Giddens bagged 14 points from one try, one penalty and three conversions. Seeking just their second win of the competition, North Harbour simply could not get into their groove and instead suffered their sixth consecutive defeat.

On Friday, Waikato's South Island horrors continued as they were trumped 23-9 by Tasman at Blenheim.

Tasman captain Andrew Goodman was a standout figure as his side powered clear in the second half and virtually ensured they will finish the seventh round residing in the competition's top four. Waikato's fourth loss may well leave them among the bottom four as they pay the price for another poor performance south of Cook Strait.

They are away to all four South Island sides this season and have now lost to Southland, Canterbury and Tasman, and will not be relishing a trip to Otago next month. Goodman ended the match with 15 points, including a remarkable match-swinging try 30 seconds after half-time which built on his side's 10-9 lead at the break.

Receiving the ball at first receiver 60m out, Goodman scooted behind the ruck and left the blindside defence for dead, swerving past the Waikato cover for a sensational score. It was the highlight of a game dominated largely by kicking, with Goodman and Waikato fly-half Trent Renata using powerful boots in a battle for territory.

Goodman kicked two penalties and converted a fourth-minute try to centre Afeleki Pelenise, set up by a blindside break from Kahn Fotuali'i.

The latest action kicked off on Thursday, with Bay of Plenty and Southland setting the pace.

Two decades of pain ended for Taranaki in New Plymouth as the province savoured a 29-16 win over Wellington. An opportunist try at the start of each half proved the difference and there was no shortage of mistakes from both teams in a match that lacked direction.

Up 16-13 at halftime, Wellington were kept scoreless after the break as their set piece work disintegrated and their discipline let them down. Taranaki's confidence grew as fly-half Willie Ripia pushed his team clear with the boot over the final half hour, ending with 19 points.

Taranaki's first try in the fifth minute was an 80 metre intercept scored by fullback Jack Cameron. The second came courtesy of a wild slap from Wellington's defensive lineout which was gleefully pounced on by flanker John Willis, giving them a 43rd minute lead they weren't to relinquish.

Wellington's sole try on the half hour went to centre Robert Fruean, their most dangerous attacker, while first five-eighth Daniel Kirkpatrick kicked a faultless 11 points. It was Taranaki's best performance of the year, following narrow defeats of Manawatu and North Harbour.

Two tries to mobile Counties Manukau prop Simon Lemalu secured a bonus-point 37-21 win over Northland at Okara Park in Whangarei. It represented a remarkable turnaround for a side who last weekend conceded nine tries when losing 19-62 to Wellington.

In the last game of the round, Auckland continued their mid-season revival by snatching a dramatic 23-20 win against <>Manawatu at Eden Park in Auckland.

A last minute try from promising wing Atieli Pakalani denied Manawatu what would have been their first championship success over Auckland since 1981. He scored in the corner after a game-breaking bust from replacement halfback Auvasa Faleali'i cracked open Manawatu's defence almost immediately after the visitors had taken the lead for the first time themselves.

The result lifted Auckland to fifth place after seven rounds when only a few short weeks ago they were struggling to stay off the bottom of the table.


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