Canterbury begin title defence in style
August 16, 2013
Canterbury scrum-half Andy Ellis saw plenty of the ball as the defending champions dominated possession
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Canterbury had too much cohesion and a rocket-propelled dynamo in wing Patrick Osborne to roundly defeat Taranaki 30-6 in their ITM Cup game at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Friday night.
It wasn't the most stunning of performances from the defending champions, very much a first outing, but the efficiencies which have marked Canterbury through their long reign of success were evident, even with the infusion of new blood into the side.
Taranaki, by comparison, lacked the continuity and ability to retain the ball to pressure the home defences and that was never more graphically illustrated moments from the end when patient work in build-up was undone when captain and flanker Kane Barrett dropped the ball with the try chance on. But it was symptomatic of Taranaki's night of lost chances.
Canterbury took time to settle and while they had chances lost, especially from one wild pass to wing Milford Keresoma who had no chance of climbing high enough for an impossible take, and his knock-on in-goal when chasing a well-placed kick ahead by fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal, but they learned from them.
In the glimpses of continuity Canterbury achieved early on, the sharpest edge was provided by wing Patrick Osborne and it was no surprise when he scored after receiving the ball on the end of the line from a lineout. He needed to do some work with three defenders between him and the line, but he beat them and crossed for a 22nd minute try which, with Bleyendaal's conversion and his earlier 13th minute penalty goal, gave Canterbury a 10-0 lead. Osborne, probably the key figure in the game, kept looking for work and caused problems all night.
Taranaki had to absorb some Canterbury pressure through the early stages but scrum-half Chris Smylie several times sniped around rucks to give his side momentum and one such break provided a penalty goal chance for centre Andre Taylor to land the points.
Osborne was in the action again for the second try, scored in the 31st minute. He took a poor kick from Taylor and planted it downfield and mounted a superb chase which pressured the Taranaki defence and at the breakdown the visitors were penalised. Flanker Matt Todd arrived at the scene, tapped the ball and drove over for the try.
Taylor had a last chance after the half-time hooter to land a penalty goal from 50 metres and he made no mistake to go to the sheds at 15-6 down.
Bleyendaal demonstrated the finer touches of his kicking game with successive cross-field kicks to his wings early in the second half. From the first Osborne secured the ball and set up a ruck which resulted in another cross-field kick finding lock Luke Katene patrolling the sideline to take the ball and dot down in the corner.
In the 58th minute, more continuity play resulted in centre Adam Whitelock scoring the bonus-point try, with Bleyendaal's conversion taking Canterbury to a 30-6 lead.
Taranaki were earnest in the tight exchanges and created some openings through fullback Kent Baker and replacement scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park but the efforts lapsed for want of support. Of all the Taranaki players none worked harder to tie up the home defences than inside-centre Isaia Tuafua.
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