Canterbury 72-7 Manawatu, ITM Cup
Richie Mo'unga sparkles on starting debut
September 26, 2013
Date/Time: Sep 25, 2013, 19:35 local, 07:35 GMT
Venue: Rugby League Park, Christchurch
Canterbury 72 - 7 Manawatu
Half-time: 39 - 7
Tries: Crotty, Ellis, Fa'anunu, Faletau, Keresoma 4, McNicholl, Mo'unga
Cons: Mo'unga 8
Pens: Mo'unga 2
Tries: Eves
Cons: George
Canterbury's Richie Mo'unga beats the tackle of Nate George, Canterbury v Manawatu, ITM Cup, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, September 25, 2013
Richie Mo'unga enjoyed a starting debut to remember
© Getty Images

Richie Mo'unga enjoyed a remarkable starting debut for Canterbury, scoring 27 points as the five-time defending ITM Cup champions humbled Manawatu Turbos at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

Mo'unga, 19, was called up to make his run-on debut after Tyler Bleyendaal and Colin Slade were struck down in the weekend loss to Wellington Lions, respectively with concussion and a knee injury, but the rookie, described by captain Andy Ellis as "the tactician", was at home when running the cutter.

He miscued the opening kick-off, but atoned thereafter with an impressive performance that saw the hosts dominate territory and possession. He scored an impressive try in the first half and produced deft touches to spark strike plays from set-piece to show he fits the Canterbury structures, while quick thinking to set up one of Milford Keresoma's four tries screamed x-factor. The performance will allay any fears of coach Scott Robertson after also losing Tom Taylor, who is in Argentina with the All Blacks. Bleyendaal should be fit for the match against Auckland at Eden Park on Saturday, but Canterbury seemingly won't lose much if he fails psychometric testing in the coming days.

Canterbury played expansive rugby despite wet conditions, and they soon led 8-0 when Ellis slid over after Nasi Manu had broken the Turbos' line. Tomasi Cama then failed to take a spiralling high bomb, and Mo'unga was on hand to toe the bobbling ball ahead to touch down for his side's second. The try-scoring action ceased, albeit briefly, as Canterbury absorbed a minor momentum swing before sending prop Sione Faletau over for a memorable debut in the red-and-black jersey.

Ryan Crotty will want to forget his basic error that denied him a certain try after he had done all the hard work to beat the defence, but he wasn't going to be denied a second time as he carried three tacklers over the line as the half-time siren sounded. That followed Johnny McNicholl scoring to mark his first run-on start of the season and Manawatu's only try of the evening, scored by Chris Eves after the tight-head had batted down a Patrick Osborne kick 20 metres out.

Canterbury surpassed their previous highest score of 64 against the Turbos, with Paea Fa'anunu and Keresoma dotting down late in the second half, and the latter celebrated the first hat-trick of the ITM Cup season with a flurry of three tries in the final quarter.

Milford Keresoma scored four tries in claiming the first hat-trick of the season © Getty Images
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