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Classy Canterbury Lock Up Home Final

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Classy Canterbury Lock Up Home Final

Wellington, Oct 30 NZPA - Hawke's Bay's cruel Air NZ Cup rugby semifinal record continued as clinical Canterbury prevailed 20-3 tonight to book a home final.

For a third straight year, a promising Hawke's Bay season ended at the penultimate stage, with the defending champions scoring three unanswered tries to lodge a deserved win.

As top qualifiers, they will host next week's final, against the winner of tomorrow's second semifinal between Wellington and Southland.

Canterbury bounced back from losing the Ranfurly Shield to Southland a week ago, unlocking the Hawke's Bay defence at key moments to make the difference in an even, error-filled match.

Locks Sam Whitelock and Isaac Ross scored in the first half to help Canterbury to a 12-3 halftime advantage but it was a brilliant try to first five-eighth Stephen Brett 10 minutes after halftime that knocked the stuffing out of the visitors.

From one of many Hawke's Bay attacking turnovers, the ball was moved quickly to winger Sean Maitland, who found Brett on his inside after a scorching 60m burst.

Both teams struggled for clean breaks after that, with Hawke's Bay particularly lacking a cutting edge to match their forward endeavour on attack.

As well as extending their horror semifinal record, Hawke's Bay remain winless against Canterbury since 1982 and still haven't tasted success in Christchurch since 1968.

Despite some long periods camped on attack and some impressive driving, they never truly threatened tonight in the same way they did in the 27-20 loss to Canterbury at Napier two weeks ago.

Their cause wasn't helped by finishing with a makeshift midfield. Second five-eighth Andrew Horrell didn't start because of injury while centre and captain Jason Shoemark missed the second half due to a gastric issue.

A Canterbury side missing eight All Blacks played with more fluency and had the better of referee Jonathon White's rulings at the breakdown.

The only black mark over their evening was the sight of All Black Ross and fullback Colin Slade exiting the game with apparent injuries which may affect their participation in the final.

Canterbury captain George Whitelock said the Shield loss was used as a spur this week.

"The boys were really hurting after last weekend and we wanted to make sure we were around at finals time to have a good crack and make sure we have a good season," he told Sky Sport.

"We had a really great attitude in terms of physicality tonight... but we've got one game to go and anything can happen so you turn up."

Hawke's Bay counterpart Michael Johnson said Canterbury played excellent playoffs-style rugby.

"They got a good defence there and really punished us when we made mistakes and scored those tries, a couple of long-rangers really hurt us," he said.

"The Canterbury forwards were turning over a lot of ball and making it really tough. Really, we needed to get a bit more go-forward just to get us in the game.

"We've been here (semifinal) three times in a row. Obviously this was a good chance to do it but we just weren't good enough on the night."

While Ross and Sam Whitelock grabbed the glory with their first-half tries, another lanky Canterbury forward nearly scored just 15 seconds after the opening whistle.

A rapid-fire attack ended when but flanker Michael Paterson spilled a pass with the line open.

Whitelock wasn't so merciful in the ninth minute, storming 25m to score via a pass from halfback Tyson Keats after fullback Israel Dagg spilled a Stephen Brett bomb.

First five-eighth Brett's sideline converson was a rare success on a night where he and Slade were off target with the boot.

They each missed long penalties before Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Matt Berquist slotted his team's only three points.

Ross's try was a crucial one 4min before the break after Paterson charged down the attempted clearing kick of halfback Chris Eaton.

The only second half points was Brett's try followed by his late penalty.

Canterbury's win was more decisive than the 31-21 semifinal defeat of the same opponents at the same venue last year.


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