Canterbury overcome brave Bulls

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Sunday, October 2, 2016    Getty Images

Both sides scored two tries apiece in the opening half, with Marty McKenzie's penalty kick proving the difference as the hosts took an 18-17 lead into halftime at Yarrow Stadium.

But it was the visitors who showed why they are the defending champions, with Jordie Barrett and captain Luke Whitelock scoring within five minutes. Richie Mo'unga also scored to give the visitors a 36-24 lead, before Stephen Perofeta and Toa Halafihi dotted down to make for a frantic final few minutes.

In the end, the visitors held on to hand Taranaki its second loss of the season.

The win was even more significant for Canterbury given it was their third match in eight games. Given their youthful-looking side, the visitors were dealt a cruel blow when Alby Mathewson was injured in the first three minutes of the match.

By contrast, Taranaki's defensive resolve faded in the second half, and their opponents capitalised to take a firm grasp of the game with 10 minutes left.

The hosts finished the game with a bonus point, enough to consolidate their position in the top four of the Premiership.

Canterbury, meanwhile, took maximum points from the encounter to sit pretty atop the Premiership with 35 competition points.

Taranaki were happy enough to accumulate points in the opening phases of the match, with two early penalties helping Marty McKenzie reach 100 points for the season.

Jordie Barrett's first penalty of the afternoon ignited the visitors into action, and after a poor re-start from McKenzie, Canterbury switched on to attack.

Jed Brown did well to evade his first tackler, before a smart inside pass found Jack Stratton, who dotted down to score in his blazer game.

Taranaki had their chance to respond, and Rhys Marshall capitalised with a try from a quick McKenzie tap close to the line.

Canterbury looked as if they would take a handy lead into halftime with a try to Whitelock. But the outstanding Iopu Iopu-Aso's dynamic run from the back of the scrum saw the hosts back in front 18-17 after the first 40 minutes.

The defending champions started strong in the second half, with Barrett scoring his side's third try of the afternoon thanks in part to some weak defence from opposite Sean Wainui.

Two McKenzie penalties levelled the match at 24-24 before Barrett and Whitelock scored within five minutes to take a significant step towards winning the game.

The Bulls did not give up, however, and scored through Stephen Perofeta and Toa Halafihi. Perofeta's two missed conversions, however, meant that the hosts had to score a try to have any hope of victory, and they were unable to.

For Canterbury, Barrett was arguably the player with the biggest influence on the match. His try, along with four conversions and two penalties gave him a personal haul of 19 points, while his defensive effort denied Iopu-Aso a second try at a crucial stage of the match.

Toa Halafihi deserved his try and brought a lot of vigour in his appearance from the bench at No.8. Rhys Marshall was again industrious, while Seta Tamanivalu mixed good moments on defence with some patchy work on attack.

Taranaki 34 (Toa Halafihi, Stephen Perofeta, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Rhys Marshall tries; Marty McKenzie con, 4 pen) Canterbury 39 (Luke Whitelock 2, Richie Mounga, Jordie Barrett, Jack Stratton tries; Barrett 4 con, 2 pen). HT: 18-17.

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