Mo'unga show secures Canterbury another title
CUP FINAL MATCH REPORT: Richie Mo'unga scored a record 25 points as Canterbury claimed yet another National Provincial Championship title.
The 35-13 demolition of the Tasman Makos secured Canterbury their ninth title in 10 years and their 14th overall.
For the second consecutive year Tasman threatened in the early stages, but ultimately fell short to a very efficient Canterbury team.
In the 2016 Premiership Final between the same sides, it was Mo'unga who starred with two tries and he was even more influential on Saturday.
Canterbury completely shut out Tasman 39-0 when they met in Round One, but it didn't take long to see this clash would be a lot closer as the Makos took the game to the reigning champions in the opening quarter.
Playing with high energy and enthusiasm, Tasman had Canterbury on the back foot and opened the scoring in the 10th minute when powerful midfielder Levi Aumua finished off a brilliant interchange of passing.
A Mitchell Hunt penalty soon after stretched Tasman out to a 10-0 lead – a fair reflection of their early dominance.
Enter Richie Mo'unga. The classy flyhalf missed last week's semifinal due to being assembled with the All Blacks but stunned Tasman with two brilliant individual tries in the space of five minutes.
In the first, he beat two defenders down the short side to put Canterbury on the board. The second was a spectacular 50 metre effort where he completely bamboozled the Tasman defence to put Canterbury out in front for the first time.
With regular front row forwards Tim Perry and Kane Hames with the All Blacks Northern Tour squad, Tasman struggled up front and Canterbury took advantage on the stroke of halftime.
Opting for a line-out instead of a shot at goal, Canterbury struck on a vital blow on Tasman as Tim Bateman crossed to put Canterbury out to a 19-13 halftime lead.
Canterbury dominated possession in the second half but struggled to cross the line as the Makos defence remained resolute. The pressure told on the scoreboard through Richie Mo'unga penalties in the 42nd, 55th and 64th minute to put the home side out to a 28-13 lead with 15 minutes to play.
Tasman looked to stretch the ball wide to the exciting pair of James Lowe and Will Jordan in the closing stages but the Canterbury defence was equal to the task and was not willing to offer Tasman a route back into the contest.
Fittingly it was Mo'unga who orchestrated Canterbury's only second half try when he put Jack Stratton over to confirm Canterbury as the best team in New Zealand for another season.
Man of the match: James Lowe tried his best to spark Tasman, but the real star was new All Black Richie Mo'unga. The Canterbury flyhalf could do no wrong.
Tries: Mo'unga 2, Bateman, Stratton
Cons: Mo'unga 3
Pens: Mo'unga 3
For Tasman Makos:
Pens: Hunt 2
Canterbury: 15 George Bridge, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Braydon Ennor, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Hamish Dalzell, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Chris Gawler, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Inga Finau.
Tasman Makos: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Tomas Aoake, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Vernon Fredericks, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Shannon Frizell, 4 Alex Ainley (captain), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Siua Halanukonuka.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Tom Hill, 18 Ryan Coxon/Drew Petelo, 19 Pari Pari Parkinson, 20 Pete Samu/Braden Stewart, 21 Billy Guyton/Ben Finau, 22 Tim O'Malley, 23 Trael Joass.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Danny Morrison
TMO: Shane McDermott