Canterbury extend their dynasty
NPC FINAL MATCH REPORT: A lightning start by Canterbury was backed by unrelenting defence in holding out some long Tasman attacking phases to retain the National Provincial Championship title.
Canterbury beat Tasman 43-27 in Christchurch on Saturday.
It was an extension of Canterbury's dominance of the competition, their eighth out of the last nine titles, as they sent coach Scott Robertson on his way to the Crusaders' coaching role.
If Tasman were to make a significant impact on the game they needed flyhalf Marty Banks to be on top of his game, but it became the changing of eras as his Canterbury opposite Richie Mo'unga took control of the game - scoring two tries himself and setting up two others.
For Banks there were some flourishes, but more mistakes than he would have wanted in ending his association with the side before heading to Italy.
Canterbury made a sensational start when Banks' attempted to clear the ball from the Tasman 22 had his kick charged down by hard-working lock David McDuling, who was able to run through onto the ball and open the scoring after only 42 seconds.
Five minutes later, Mo'unga broke from around halfway into the Tasman 22m area. From the resulting play, the ball emerged to Mo'unga at first receiver and he slipped a grubber kick through and wing Nathan Earle won the favourable bounce to score Canterbury's second try.
But Earle blemished his copy book after Banks had landed a penalty goal when infringing and was sent to the sin-bin by referee Glen Jackson.
Hooker Andrew Makalio went close to scoring, but the TMO ruled he was short of the goal-line and Canterbury cleared the line when Tasman were unable to capitalise.
However, they received another chance after some untidy work by flank Tom Sanders. He attempted to keep the ball in play but it was seized by centre Kieron Fonotia and he kicked it into Canterbury's 22m area. Centre Jordie Barrett was back to cover but lacked support as the Tasman forwards powered into the breakdown and it was flank Shannon Frizzell who picked the ball up and scored.
Tasman had wiped out the deficit but there was no time to savour the moment, because Mo'unga took advantage of an unexpected wall of his own players in front of him to elude the defenders and score a superb individual try to regain the initiative, which was extended when Barrett landed a penalty goal that saw Canterbury got to half-time leading 22-13.
It was typical of Tasman's first half that just after the final hooter Banks was lining up a 52-metre attempt at a penalty goal, but when the ball fell off the tee, an assistant referee Brendon Pickerill suggested the TMO look at an incident and when the view was taken it showed that Tasman lock Alex Ainley had neck rolled Canterbury fullback Johnny McNicholl. The penalty was reversed and Ainley was sent to the sin-bin for an extended half-time break.
It proved costly after the break as Canterbury took advantage with Earle making a strong run deep into Tasman territory and then Banks kicking the ball out on the full which allowed Canterbury to set up a maul and while they didn't score immediately, they won a five-metre scrum and inside centre Rob Thompson took the chance provided to score.
Restored to full strength there was an immediate improvement in Tasman's endeavour and Canterbury's defences were given a thorough test during a 17-phase spell which only ended when a penalty was conceded. Tasman won the scrum and put replacement centre David Havili on a line close to the posts and from the ruck scrumhalf Billy Guyton scored.
Inevitably, Canterbury struck back, although it was a knock-on from the restart by Guyton that allowed a platform to be rebuilt and Mo'unga used his acceleration off the mark to prise open the defence for his second try, in the 60th minute.
Tasman didn't know they were expected to stop as they applied pressure on Canterbury in their 22-metre area and a desperate clearing kick from Mo'unga did not make much ground and having placed Guyton in the front of the line-out, replacement hooker Jesse MacDonald threw the ball to him and he drove ahead.
Then from the ruck, MacDonald ducked around to the open side to score.
Again, Canterbury hit straight back and it was Mo'unga demonstrating another skill when popping a delayed short pass for replacement flank Billy Harmon to put the issue beyond doubt. That was exacerbated when Viliami Lolohea broke through only to lose the ball as he attempted to ground it over the line.
Tries: McDuling, Earle, Mo'unga 2, Thompson, Harmon
Cons: Barrett 5
Tries: Frizzell, Guyton, McDonald
Cons: Banks 3
Pens: Banks 2
Canterbury: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Tom Sanders, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 David McDuling, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Jed Brown, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Inga Finau, 23 Ben Volavola.
Tasman: 15 Mitchell Hunt, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Billy Guyton; 8 Pete Samu, 7 Shane Christie (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Quentin Strange, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Pari Pari Parkinson, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 David Havili, 23 Caleb Makene.
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Angus Mabey
TMO: Aaron Paterson