New Zealand giants Canterbury won their sixth successive ITM Cup Premiership title when they convincingly beat Wellington 29-13, in Wellington on Saturday night.
Wellington will be bitterly disappointed, playing the final in their own backyard and having not won the tournament since 2000. It was a superb second half performance from Canterbury that made the difference and secured the title.
It was the visitors and defending Champions that got things underway with Andy Ellis scoring the game’s opening try in the tenth minute.
An incredible solo effort from Patrick Osborne, as he re-gathered his own grubber kick and glided through the defensive line, sent Ellis over for the score with an inside pass.
Tom Taylor added the extras to make the scores 7-0. Three minutes later the home side replied with a Lima Sopoaga penalty after Luke Whitelock was penalised for a ruck infringement.
Canterbury hit back immediately, but only to the dismay of their fans as Taylor burrowed his way over the line from close quarters, only to be ruled a no try by referee Chris Pollock.
Wellington then began to fight back, however, it seemed that adrenaline took over from sense as they kicked for touch from a penalty well inside goal-kicking range. The decision seemed to be a huge error as both John Schwalger and Ardie Savea were both held up as they crossed over the try line.
However, luckily for the home side, Captain Victor Vito’s decision was justified, from the ensuing scrum as Sopoaga spotted a hole in the Canterbury defence and managed to slide through to score his side’s only try of the day.
At the half time whistle the home side led the way after Sopoaga also added the conversion to make the score 10-7.
The start of the second half saw a monumental turnaround as the defending champions sprung into life once again. After a long period of sustained pressure on the Wellington try line, Ryan Crotty managed to break his way through and score in the corner after receiving a long pass from Osborne. Taylor could not add the extras – 10-12.
Wellington had the chance to retake the lead once again as they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. But Sopoaga was off the mark again with his kick as it faded to the right of the uprights.
Once again Canterbury were held up over the line, as great covering tackles prevented Joe Moody and Luke Whitelock from extending their side’s lead.
However, the breakthrough did eventually come, as Tyler Bleyendaal burrowed his way over the line from close range. Taylor managed to convert the try, extending his sides lead.
Sopoaga hit back almost instantly for the home side with another penalty, narrowing the gap to just six points with ten minutes left on the clock.
Wellington threw themselves at the reigning champions, but mistakes proved costly. The home side were pinned for holding onto the ball, in front of their own posts, which Taylor made the most of, restoring their nine point lead.
The game was eventually sealed with just a minute left on the clock as second row captain Whitelock thundered his way through the Wellington line to score his side’s fourth try of the game.
Taylor made the conversion and sealed the game, handing the ITM Premiership trophy to Canterbury for the sixth year in a row.
Talking Rugby Union correspondent, Scotty Donaldson said that “Canterbury's experience in winning the big games with experienced campaigners like Andy Ellis and George Whitelock in their element shone through as Canterbury won 29 -13.
“Canterbury were simply too good with their five current All Blacks squad members shining through.
“Wellington will be disappointed not to win their first title since 2000, especially since they won the round robin game with Canterbury and played the final at home.”
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Tries: Ellis, Crotty, Bleyendaal, G Whitelock
Con: 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 (c), 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.