Canterbury reward massive crowd
September 26, 2010
Sonny Bill Williams celebrates his try with Canterbury team-mates © Getty Images
Canterbury treated a near-capacity AMI Stadium to a thrilling 37-30 win over Wellington on Saturday as the gates were thrown as a goodwill gesture to the earthquake-affected region.
Nearly 38,000 people enjoyed the perfect weather and the see-saw match which saw Canterbury come from behind twice before eventually completing the script the fans wanted, partly thanks to the impact of All Blacks hopeful Sonny Bill Williams' off the bench.
Williams was out to prove a point after losing his starting berth and his brilliant second-half individual try helped put the hosts into a winning position. Two tries to stand-in captain Hosea Gear helped Wellington to a 20-13 half-time lead but Canterbury drew level seven minutes after the restart when scrumhalf Andy Ellis capped off a sweeping move.
Wellington responded through No.8 Faifili Levave but Canterbury then lifted their intensity and were rewarded with two quickfire tries, the first to stand-out Sean Maitland. Williams then used a step, a burst of speed and a powerful drive in the tackle to put Canterbury 34-25 up. Wellington scrum-half Alby Mathewson scored a cheeky try to keep the match alive but it seemed entirely appropriate that Canterbury had the final say when fly-half Colin Slade completed a tidy performance with his third penalty to lift his personal haul to 17 points.
Southland retained the Ranfurly Shield and moved three points clear at the top of the table after clinging on to defeat Auckland 9-6 in Invercargill on Thursday night. Ironically, it was 51 years to the day since Auckland beat Southland to claim the shield, the beginning of a 50-year shield drought for the southern men, but they ensured history would not repeat itself with their first win over Auckland in 39 years.
Auckland dominated everything but the scoreboard in a first-half befitting the competition's two stingiest defences. Midway through the half Jason Rutledge effected a crucial turnover on his own line, and the home team went the length of the field to open the scoring through a Robbie Robinson penalty. Auckland's onslaught continued, however, and flanker Onosai'i Auva'a claimed a try four minutes before the break when he crashed over the line from close range, but the television match official ruled there was insufficient evidence to award the try. They had to settle for a Matt Berquist penalty to level the scores at 3-3 on the stroke of half-time.
Robinson and Berquist traded penalties early in the second half but there was a sense Southland would find a way to win. They repelled wave after wave of Auckland attack - the visitors spent close to 20 minutes inside Southland's 22 - and Robinson nailed the match-winning penalty in the 70th minute.
Former All Black Stephen Donald continued his return to form, featuring prominently as Waikato accounted for Tasman 33-15 at Waikato Stadium on Saturday. Although a little rusty off the bench in last week's 6-7 loss to Southland, Donald looked impressive tonight in racking up 18 points. He rediscovered his touch with the boot, sinking three first half penalties, including a confidence-boosting 40m effort in the third minute.
Tasman hit the front through wing Afeleki Pelenise's try. Ahead 10-3 after first five-eighth James Marshall added the extras, Tasman held strong until No.8 Alex Bradley went over for the first of his two tries of the evening. With Tasman heavily penalised at the breakdown, Waikato took a six-point lead into the break, which was extended barely two minutes after the restart by Bradley after Donald busted through the Tasman line in a bullocking midfield run.
Waikato crossed for their third try while Shane Christie was in the sin-bin, moving the ball wide to Save Tokula who proved too quick for the defence to cover. Tasman regained a glimmer of hope with a try to prop Craig Moore, who proved impossible to stop from close range with 20 minutes remaining.
Hawke's Bay stirred to life on Saturday with an upset 32-24 win over play-off chasing Taranaki. The teams' recent pasts counted for nothing at McLean Park as Hawke's Bay started with a hiss and a roar, swarming all over the visitors to lead 25-0 inside 23 minutes. They totally dominated the early exchanges and found rich reward as captain Jason Shoemark, his midfield partner Ryan McLeod then hooker Hika Elliot scored quick-fire tries to stun Taranaki.
David Smith scored a fine individual try in the 30th minute to get Taranaki on the scoreboard but after the break Hawke's Bay struck as Zac Guildford raced on to an inside ball from first five-eighth Kahn Fotuali'i to step then outpace the faltering Taranaki line. Taranaki responded with two tries in quick succession to replacements Kane Barrett and Kurt Baker before second five-eighth Jayden Hayward waltzed through open spaces for their fourth try eight minutes from full-time.
Bay of Plenty kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive with a 40-30 victory over struggling Otago at a rain-soaked Rotorua International Stadium on Friday. The hosts had the game wrapped up by the interval. Lelia Masaga was the first to cross, the winger touching down after getting on the end of his own chip in behind the Otago defence. Glenn Dickson replied with a penalty for the visitors but Bay of Plenty stretched their lead when a clever tap penalty from Taniela Moa left Phil Burleigh with a simple finish. The visitors registered their first score when Dickson put Hayden Triggs over with a superb skip pass but Bay of Plenty hit right back, with Josh Hohneck crossing after excellent work from Masaga.
Dickson's boot kept Otago in touch but Bay of Plenty secured the bonus point just before the break thanks to No.8 Colin Bourke, who dotted after some wonderful passing from his fellow forwards. Mike Delaney slotted two penalties after the break to stretch Bay of Plenty's lead to 35-16 and although Otago rallied, with second-half tries from Chris Small and Ben Smith, the hosts sealed victory with a last-gasp score from Solomon King.
On Sunday, barnstorming No.8 Matt Luamanu helped himself to a quickfire hat-trick of tries as North Harbour beat Manawatu 44-30 in Albany. His opposite Hamish Gosling ran 50m to score off an intercept from a loose pass by Luamanu in the 18th minute but Luamanu atoned seven minutes later by storming 30m to the line without a hand being laid on him before forcing his way over again amid a forward drive in the 34th minute. Two minutes later 22-year-old Luamanu completed a stunning hat-trick, this time charging 40m on the angle after neat interpassing with lock Anthony Boric.
Luamanu's third try gave North Harbour a decisive 31-11 half-time advantage and earned them a four-try bonus point, just the second bonus point they have pocketed through nine rounds of the competition. Victory saw North Harbour improve one place to 10th on the standings while Manawatu remained 14th and last.
In the final game of the round, Counties-Manukau survived a determined Northland comeback to secure a hard-fought 40-24 bonus point win in Pukekohe. Things had looked promising early on when Northland half-back Rhyan Caine sliced through some lacklustre defence from the back of the scrum to touch down. But seven minutes later, Counties-Manukau roared into life, former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga sparking a four-try burst in the 15 minutes before half-time.
Quick ball from an attacking scrum saw Umaga break the Northland line with ease, then offload to flanker Fritz Lee on his shoulder. Lee was followed across the line in rapid succession by lock Taiasina Tuifua, whose support play was superb throughout, prop Simon Lemalu and then wing Sherwin Stowers well after the half-time siren. Northland came out firing in the second spell and hit back with tries to Caine and flanker Dean Budd inside the first five minutes to close the gap to six points. Counties-Manukau increased their lead through the boot of fullback Tim Nanai-Williams and first five-eighth Dean Cummins, but only guaranteed the win when Ahsee Tuala latched on to a wayward Northland pass and sprinted away for a 72nd minute try.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery