New Zealand Cup
Canterbury claim Cup glory
October 25, 2008
Cory Jane and Colin Slade compete for the ball in a hard-fought contest
© Getty Images
Wellington collapsed at the last hurdle yet again, succumbing 6-7 to rugby's ruthless assassins Canterbury in the New Zealand Cup final at Westpac Stadium.
Control of the breakdown and courageous defence trumped enterprise on a wet night at Westpac Stadium as Canterbury won an absorbing contest to claim their first national provincial title since 2004. It capped a brilliant domestic year for most of the side, who were part of the Crusaders' successful Super 14 campaign.
There was yet more misery for Wellington, who have now lost the five finals they have contested since last winning in 2000. This one would have hurt more than any because they had much the better of the final, utterly dominating the second half, but their competition-leading attack couldn't break down a side who comfortably had the best defence.
Wellington end the season with the Ranfurly Shield but will long rue somehow losing this game and ending their 20-match winning run at home. Despite constant rain, the hosts attacked throughout and made numerous clean breaks but faulty hands or desperate Canterbury defence proved their undoing.
Wellington dominated all areas apart from the lineout, where there were countless malfunctions, and took control of the breakdown after playing second fiddle there for much of the first spell.
The unlikely Canterbury hero was flanker Hayden Hopgood, who drove over in the 25th minute for the game's only try. It came from one of the visitors' few meaningful attacks while a pleading home crowd would have lost count of the number of Wellington near-misses.
All they had to show was a penalty in each half to and captain Piri Weepu, with the first five-eighth missing what would have been a match winning attempt with 20 minutes remaining. On the fulltime whistle relief mixed with elation for the Cantabrians, who claimed their sixth national title, second only to the 16 of Auckland. The Wellington players were a contrast, with many strewn on the ground in disconsolate poses.
None more so than four departing players - lock Ross Filipo, loose forwards Chris Masoe and Thomas Waldrom and reserve back Tane Tu'ipulotu - who are all leaving the province next year. It was a winning end for Canterbury's departing duo, prop Greg Somerville and fullback Scott Hamilton. Canterbury's only loss this year was their opening round defeat to wooden-spooners Manawatu.
Scoring highlights were few on a night where the elements spoiled the spectacle. Weepu broke the deadlock with a 17th-minute penalty to reward their early pressure but Canterbury hit the front against the run of play when Hopgood capitalised on some quality work from Isaac Ross.
The rising lock stole a Wellington lineout and from the resulting play a nifty run and flick pass created momentum for Hopgood. First five-eighth Colin Slade converted but missed a kickable penalty just before the break.
Weepu landed his second penalty in the 50th minute to reduce the margin to one point but there was nothing but frustration from that point on for the hosts.
Canterbury captain Kieran Read afterwards said he felt "absolutely ecstatic". Wellington threw everything at us and we just had to apply ourselves. We back our D (defence) and it came out tonight."
Weepu was more than disappointed. "Canterbury played well but we just didn't turn our opportunities into points. They defend hard and it showed tonight."
Wellington, Oct 25 - Result of the New Zealand Cup final:
Canterbury 7 (Hayden Hopgood try; Colin Slade con) Wellington 6 (Piri Weepu 2 pen). Halftime: 7-3.
Wellington: Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Piri Weepu (captain), Alby Matthewson, Rodney So'oialo, Serge Lilo, Chris Masoe, Jeremy Thrush, Ross Filipo, John Schwalger, Dane Coles, Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Tim Fairbrother, Thomas Waldrom, Api Naikatini, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Tane Tu'ipulotu.
Canterbury: Scott Hamilton, Paul Williams, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Sean Maitland, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis/Tyson Keats, Kieran Read (captain), Richie McCaw, Hayden Hopgood, Isaac Ross, Michael Paterson, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: Steve Fualau, Owen Franks, Nasi Manu, George Whitelock, Tyson Keats/Steve Alfeld, Hamish Gard, Adam Whitelock.