Canterbury extinguish North Harbour challenge

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Friday, October 7, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Having gone to half-time at 15-15 North Harbour had belied their Championship status against the Premiership favourites but in the end the Canterbury fitness and a scrum that had been a little unsettled in the first half found its footing and typified its dominance with a pushover try after the final hooter to replacement halfback Jack Stratton.

However, the vital play in the Shield defence occurred in the 55th minute when the game began to open up and the Canterbury forwards were able to get the chance to run with the ball. Lock Scott Barrett, hooker Ben Funnell and flanker Tom Sanders were especially prominent in the lead-up work which set up a chance for centre Jack Goodhue to give Canterbury the opening that blew open the game.

It did take quick hands from flanker Jed Brown, another consistent performer on the night, and Sanders to create the chance but it still required a good pick-up before Goodhue secured the try.

Predictably, the sting was taken out of the North Harbour effort which had been impressively physical, well led again by skipper and lock Chris Vui, and Canterbury pounced as the risk factor rose as the challengers tried to stay in touch.

A chargedown by Scott Barrett set up a drive at the line and it was first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga who probed to score in the 65th minute and soon after replacement hooker Nathan Vella scored wide out.

North Harbour struck first on the try-scoring board in response to a third minute penalty goal by home second five-eighths Jordie Barrett. North Harbour poured on the forward power in the Canterbury 22m area and when the ball was released via halfback Chris Smylie to wing Tevita Li, he flicked the ball on quickly knowing centre Matt Vaega was outside him and Vaega squeezed in by the corner flag.

However, North Harbour forgot to shore up their defences and like water looking for the weak spot, Mo'unga needed no invitation and he raced into wide open real estate working his way to the line, finding good support from wing Nathan Earl who got close to the line. When the ball was moved blind flanker Tom Sanders was on hand to go over.

Eight minutes later, off a long Canterbury lineout throw which looked to miss its target, Mo'unga secured the ball to make another key run and with play held up short of the line the ball was released for Barrett and Goodhue to show good skills to flick the ball to wing George Bridge who blasted over beneath the crossbar.

But a fine sideline burst by Li carried North Harbour back into the Canterbury 22m area and some more controlled driving from their big forwards created a chance which was enough for prop Sione Mafileo to drive over.

The win completes the Ranfurly Shield programme for the season.

Scorers: Canterbury 47 (Tom Sanders, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue, Richie Mo'unga, Nathan Vella, Jack Stratton tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, 3 pen; Mo'unga con) North Harbour 18 (Matt Vaega, Sione Mafileo tries; Bryn Gatland con, 2 pen). HT: 15-15

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