13 Sep

Canterbury march onward
by Tracey Nelson
13 Sep 2000

After the previous weekend’s win against Auckland, I was slightly concerned that some of our key players (namely the All Blacks) hadn’t performed too well. I’m pleased to say that after our win 43-9 over Naki at the Bullring on Saturday night, I’m feeling a lot happier about their form.

This week our pack really got stuck into the tight stuff, and provided the backline with the perfect platform to play from. It was wonderful to watch, with not a sight of any fatties loitering in the backline and everyone doing the job they were supposed to.

One thing that was evident in this game, played on a rather muddy field (no thanks to a stupid cricket pitch plonked in the middle), was the speed and precision that Canterbury played with. Quick ruck ball was secured, it was moved swiftly through the line and the backs ran hard onto the passes. All simple enough stuff, but done slickly and professionally as one would expect from the S12 champions.

Naki were stung early on by a rampant Canterbury team, and hardly saw the ball for the first quarter of the game as we quickly racked up 24 points. To their credit they came back at us in the last 10 minutes of the first half, but our trademark defence held the line intact and we went to the break feeling pretty pleased with our first half effort.

Obviously the word was said at halftime not to lift the foot from the pedal, and the second half saw more of the same as our forwards continued to dominate, and the backs kept up their brilliant handling in trying conditions. Certainly it was notable that whenever Taranaki did mange to get the ball, strong offensive-defence from Canterbury invariably led to a turnover whether it was in the tackle due to technique and numbers to the breakdown, or just straight out handling errors. In comparison, the Cantabs had a low error rate, which was a credit to their concentration and attention to the basics of the game.

Given that Naki have a pretty formidable forward pack, there was some impressive stuff from the Canterbury boys who had the acid on them in the scrums (Dave Hewett is certainly an unsung hero at loosehead), stole a couple of throws off them in the lineouts and certainly had them on the backfoot at ruck and maul time.

Players to stand out (although it was hard to pick from a forward pack that played as a complete unit for the full 80 minutes) were Maxwell and Blackadder – the latter having a storming game and showing superb touches such as offloading the ball to winger So’oalo to score when he could easily have strolled over himself – Thorne, who worked tirelessly all game, Gibson who scored three tries all thanks to great strength close to the line, the two halfbacks Hurst and Fulton who both contributed brilliantly, and of course Mehrts who had a dream ride behind a rampant forward pack and dictated play all night. Mention must also be made of fullback Ben Blair, who came into the starting line-up at the eleventh hour and did all the goal kicking not to mention made some sharp runs into the backline.

This weekend we play Southland at home, and the worry must be the boys are starting to think ahead to September 23rd when we head to Hamilton to challenge Waikato for the Ranfurly Shield. It is important to continue on from how we played against Naki, and get a good win under our belts before heading north next week – 5 championship points are vital to maintain our lead in the competition, and focussing on the game at hand is all important.

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