Six of the best for Canterbury
Six of the best for CanterburySHARE
Canterbury secured a sixth straight NPC title with a 29-13 win over Wellington on Saturday.
Wellington, perennially the loser at the action end of New Zealand's season, were pressured into mistakes at vital stages and Canterbury were not slow to seize their chances.
It was typical Canterbury rugby: squeezing the opposition, mounting sustained periods of attack, and then taking advantage of errors by Wellington.
A nothing kick in the eighth minute from a Wellington scrum by scrumhalf Frae Wilson had disastrous consequences. It went to wing Patrick Osborne along the ground. However, he picked it up with ease and set off down the sideline in a fine burst before backhanding a pass to supporting Andy Ellis who scored.
When in their own half, Canterbury conceded penalties and that allowed flyhalf Lima Sopoaga to firstly land a penalty goal, and then in the 34th minute to cap a period of Wellington dominance by breaking onto a superb pass from flank Ardea Savea from the base of a ruck to touch down and convert.
Poor Wellington play in their own 22m two minutes into the second half, firstly through a chargedown of a clearance kick and then a speculator from Savea which went straight to George Whitelock who charged at the line. He sucked in Wellington defenders and the ball was flung wide for Ryan Crotty to score.
Canterbury camped in Wellington's 22m area and twice required decisions of the Television Match Official as firstly prop Joe Moody and then flank Luke Whitelock went close to scoring only to come up short on video evidence. The consequence for Moody was frustrating as he was taken from the field with an ankle injury which could have him doubt for the All Blacks' end of year tour.
However, it proved a case of third time lucky when centre Adam Whitelock cut inside and grounded the ball just short of the line with Tyler Bleyendaal coming in to pick up the ball and touch it down.
Wellington relished finally being able to get their hands back on the ball from the re-start and the substitute prop Reg Goodes had an impact with some charging runs and that freed up Savea and Sopoaga to probe gaps in the Canterbury defences.
But no sooner had Sopoaga kicked a penalty goal to reduce the deficit to six when Taylor responded with his first of the night.
And it was appropriate in the last act of the game, after a breakout run by replacement hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone, that George Whitelock was awarded the final try.
Try: Sopoaga tries
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Tries: Ellis, Crotty, Bleyendaal, Whitelock
Cons: Taylor 3
Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Kaipati Gaualofa, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Tomasi Palu, 22 Joe Hill.
Canterbury: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Luke Whitelock, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Luke Katene, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Rob Thompson, 22 Colin Slade.