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Canterbury Issue Chilly Warning To Rivals

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Canterbury Issue Chilly Warning To Rivals

Wellington, Aug 30 NZPA - The weather may be warming but the chill factor remains for Canterbury's increasingly concerned Air NZ Cup rugby rivals.

Their clinical demolition of Wellington last night raises a question which must be on the lips of every coach in the land.

Can Canterbury get even better? It is hard to imagine so given the utterly complete nature of their performance in a rousing 36-14 Ranfurly Shield victory in the capital.

Not that they need to improve. Any form remotely resembling what was displayed yesterday should be more than good enough for Canterbury to retain both the shield and the Air NZ Cup title.

In Wellington's fifth defence since they lifted the shield with a 27-0 rout of Auckland last season, Canterbury were headed towards a shutout of even larger proportions before two late breakout tries by Ma'a Nonu and Hosea Gear denied them a clean slate.

But that was a small price to pay for a win earned on the back of unrelenting pressure. Wellington cracked early, a succession of errors and penalties gifting the challengers easy points.

First five-eighth Dan Carter did not need a second invitation, coolly slotting eight-of-10 attempts for 21 points before being rested with 15 minutes remaining.

Carter and his fellow All Blacks Richie McCaw and Brad Thorn will not front when Canterbury defend the shield for the first time in their latest tenure, against Otago on September 12.

But they have already established a template for their teammates to follow: pressure plus accuracy plus continuity equals points.

They followed those principles to the letter, reducing Wellington to a walking wreck at the set piece where the home side's scrum and lineout grew increasingly dysfunctional as the game wore on.

It was 26-0 at halftime following tries to skipper George Whitelock and Tim Bateman before replacement hooker Corey Flynn accounted for their third after the break.

It was Canterbury's fourth win in succession since their shock opening loss to North Harbour, leaving them atop the standings on points differential after five rounds.

It sets up an intriguing match against third-placed Bay of Plenty at Mt Maunganui next Saturday, after the previous leaders surrendered an unbeaten track record with a 14-29 loss to Auckland on a wet Eden Park today.

Auckland's second victory in five outings was earned in slippery conditions which made ball control and retention difficult but they overcame that to score four tries, two of them by All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko.

Bay of Plenty could not contain Rokocoko, fullback Paul Williams and centre Isaia Toeava on attack and were limited on that area themselves, their sole try coming in the closing seconds to wing Nigel Hunt.

Level pegging with Canterbury on 18 points are Southland, who scored a bonus-point four tries in overcoming North Harbour 24-22 at Albany.

Manawatu are still there or thereabouts despite a tense 10-12 loss at home to Taranaki yesterday, the bonus point leaving them in fourth place on 14 points.

Otago rebounded from a loss to Manawatu by belting Northland 29-7 in Whangarei, their four tries earning them their fifth bonus point of a campaign featuring only two wins.

In other matches, Hawke's Bay scored at the death with a stunning try to Zac Guildford to deny Tasman 28-26 in Napier and Waikato recovered from a sluggish start to post just their second win, 30-8 over a Counties-Manukau side lacking discipline in Pukekohe.

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