Canterbury see off stiff Wellington challenge

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Saturday, August 25, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Eight days after coming a clear second to Tasman in the opener of its Premiership defence, Canterbury brought more urgency, if not always accuracy, to its work, and was able to grind out a bonus point victory against a team that had put 60 on them in 2017.

Led by sterling outings by fullback George Bridge, lock Luke Romano, halfback Mitch Drummond and the under-rated blindside flanker Reed Prinsep, Canterbury was able to keep its nose in front after an early setback and will bank five valuable points, as well as reclaiming the Harry Saundercock Memorial Trophy.

An early Brett Cameron penalty goal was countered via a try to Wellington No 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, who scored between the uprights after lock Isaia Walker-Leawere burst through the ruck and slipped the offload.

Canterbury centre Braydon Ennor opened the home team’s tryscoring account after a one-two move done the left flank with his wing Caleb Makene.

Prinsep crossed between the posts almost untouched after some yeoman work by his openside Tom Christie.

The Lions were their own worst enemy, some injudicious offloads costing them dearly. Canterbury bombed two other scoring opportunities, one through an obstruction call.

When Drummond scored after the halftime whistle, off a slick lineout move including hooker Nathan Vella and No 8 Whetu Douglas, Canterbury was 22-7 to the good and apparently in control.

But the second stanza did not pan out as the Red and Blacks would have desired. Wellington hooker James O’Reilly showed good fight in the tackle to score off a lineout drive, while Wes Goosen set up dynamic flanker Du Plessis Kirifi to pull the visitors back to 27-20.

Canterbury’s second half highlight was a sweet Bridge break and pass on the counter to put Makene over.

While there was some heavy defence from both sides, there was also a plethora of turnovers and handling errors, despite the optimal conditions.

Bridge, Romano and industrious Wellington lock James Blackwell took the 3-2-1 Duane Monkley Medal points.

Lions No 6 Vaea Fifita got through plenty of work both with and without the ball, though his influence waned as the game wore on.

Canterbury skipper Douglas pinpointed a better attitude as the key factor in the comparison from the round one reverse.

Canterbury travels to Tauranga next Saturday to face Bay of Plenty in a crossover encounter, while Wellington will host Southland in another crossover clash on Friday night.

Canterbury 27
(Braydon Ennor, Reed Prinsep, Mitch Drummond, Caleb Makene tries; Brett Cameron 2 con, pen) Wellington 20 (Thomas Umaga-Jensen, James O’Reilly, Du Plessis Kirifi tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop con, pen) HT: 22-7 Canterbury