Canterbury see off brave Hawke's Bay
October 18, 2008
Canterbury's Tim Bateman is shackled by the Hawke's Bay defence
© Getty Images
Canterbury set up a Air New Zealand Cup Final showdown against Wellington with a 31-21 victory over Hawke's Bay in their semi-final clash in Christchurch.
Canterbury survived a searching examination and will travel to the nation's capital in the decider next weekend. Faced with the toughest assignment on the domestic schedule -- playing Canterbury at home -- Hawke's Bay produced a tremendous performance worthy of a finalist before the hosts delivered a brace of knockout blows midway through the second spell.
With the scores tied at 14-14 and having soaked up intense pressure, Canterbury effectively settled the contest with two tries in as many minutes. A midfield turnover and counter-attack saw space open up for lock Michael Paterson as he charged 30m to the tryline.
They surged back on to attack barely one minute later after fullback Scott Hamilton toed the ball ahead from a ruck. He chased hard, got a helpful bounce then passed to a supporting Kieran Read as the Canterbury flanker and captain raced unopposed to the goalposts.
So, in several blinks of the eye, Canterbury were suddenly in charge at 28-14 although Hawke's Bay stayed true to their gritty nature and refused to concede. Outstanding Canterbury first five-eighth Colin Slade denied them a try when lock Bryn Evans steamed towards the line after charging down a clearing kick.
As Evans neared the line a desperate Slade wrapped his arms around the lock and got his body in a good position so Evans could not force the ball. As if hammering home a rusty nail Slade moments later slammed over a 50m penalty to lift his personal haul from the match to 16 points.
Hawke's Bay got late reward for their tenacity when some sharp inter-passing among backs and forwards saw Evans score a deserved try two minutes from fulltime. Nothing had separated the combatants after a confrontational first half which ended with the scores tied at 14-14.
Injuries saw three players leave the field, with Canterbury losing left wing James Paterson in the opening minute and later halfback Andy Ellis, both to knee injuries. Hawke's Bay captain and halfback Danny Lee was also forced to the sidelines in the 37th minute when he put his body on the line to deny hooker Corey Flynn a try.
Lee was helped from the field looking decidedly groggy, having thrown himself at Flynn, forcing the bigger man to ground the ball on the touchline in the right-hand corner. The teams had traded two tries apiece at the interval, Hawke's Bay flanker Karl Lowe nabbing a double for his side after showing commendable strength near the line.
His efforts were cancelled out by Slade and Ellis. Slade made the decisive break to set up Ellis for his try then scored the next himself after sliding through a hole after a sustained buildup.
Result of an Air NZ Cup rugby semi-final in Christchurch tonight:-
Canterbury 31 (Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Michael Paterson, Kieran Read tries; Slade pen, 4 con) Hawke's Bay 21 (Karl Lowe 2, Bryn Evans tries; Matt Berquist 3 con). Halftime: 14-14.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September