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The Canterbury juggernaut kicks into gear

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

The 10-point victory was Canterbury’s fourth on the trot but didn’t come easy as North Harbour scored two brilliant tries in the second quarter to tie up the score 14-14. 

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But as Canterbury has seemed to do consistently for the past decade, they found another gear and eased to a relatively comfortable victory in the end.

Canterbury started the game in relentless fashion when fullback George Bridge claimed a high ball to put the visitors on attack. After an unwavering 13-phase assault on the North Harbour line, hooker Nathan Vella barged over for the opening points.

Minutes later, Canterbury stretched their lead to 14 points when George Bridge laid on a trademark finish following a powerful bust from No.8 Whetu Douglas.

It was a clinical opening stanza for Canterbury and one that could have easily knocked North Harbour’s belief.

But the Hibiscus have plenty of game-breakers in their line up and used them to full effect to claw their way back into the game.

The first try was sparked by an unlikely source in front rowers Chris Eves and James Parsons. In what will be a contender for one of the tries of the season, Chris Eves laid on a deft touch to put Parsons into space before the hooker put Matt Duffie into space with a no look reverse pass. Duffie had plenty of work to do but had enough pace to outflank three Canterbury defenders to the line.



First five-eighth Bryn Gatland had the magic touch for the second try with a perfectly weighted long ball to Shaun Stevenson who wasn’t touched from 30 metres out.

The home side swung onto attack early in the second half but came unstuck when Canterbury halfback Mitchell Drummond pounced on a loose ball and was pulled up just short of the line. North Harbour scrambled as best as they could but couldn’t stop Reed Prinsep from crossing.

Canterbury had North Harbour stretched again soon after and the referee had no choice but to yellow card Tevita Li when he intentionally knocked down a long pass that most likely would have led to a try.

Lock Mitchell Dunshea benefited from the one-man advantage when he went over unmarked out wide to put Canterbury up 14-31.

North Harbour had plenty of possession in the final 20 minutes but could only come up with one try to Sione Teu as Canterbury expertly slowed the ball down and defended stoutly.

The loss leaves North Harbour at a real crossroads of their season. Rooted at the foot of the Premiership ladder, the Hibiscus will need a win against Bay of Plenty this Sunday to provide hope of securing a playoff spot.

Duane Monkley Medal points:

3: Whetu Douglas
2: Hamish Dalzell
1: Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa

Scorers:
North Harbour 21 (Matt Duffie, Shaun Stevenson, Sione Teu tries, Bryn Gatland 3 con) Canterbury 31 (Nathan Vella, George Bridge, Reed Prinsep, Mitchell Dunshea tries, Brett Cameron 4 con, pen)
HT: 14-17