Canterbury 30 vs Counties 16
Sat 26th August
a cold wet afternoon @ Jade Stadium
Ref: Steve Walsh jnr
Late August and winter has finally arrived in Canterbury!
Much like the Friday night game last week against Nth Harbour todays game was played in wet and slippery conditions.
Counties were definitely going into this match as underdogs, while their performance against Auckland last week was a huge improvement over their thrashing by Nth Harbour in round one they were still likely to struggle against Canterbury at home. Add to this the fact that many of the Counties players would have had nightmares about this matchup last season (see our match report for details) and that the Canterbury bench looked remarkably like the All Black bench (with Robertson, Thorne, Somerville, MacDonald and Robinson returning from international duty) and I was feeling pretty comfortable that we win easily.
Obviously Counties had different ideas....
The first half was very messy and littered with handling errors and dumb decisions, many of them by Canterbury. Ben Blair in particular had a poor game by his standards, he missed a couple of goals, passed some dreadful floaters and kicked it dead at least twice. The best
Blair did nail two penalties though, but Counties scored the only try and Blair Feeny kicked a late penalty to give them a much deserved 8-6 lead at the half.
Canterbury decided that the game needed some cliches though and started the second half with all their All Black reserves on the park (at the expense of Mayerholfer, Blair, Seymour, Leo'o and Barrell) to make it a real game of two halves. The difference in go forward was dramatic!
Thorne scored his first try almost immediately on the end of a telling forward drive and it looked like the game would break open, at Counties expense, but again Counties weren't prepared to give up.
They fought back with a good passage of play themselves and Joeli scored in the corner to close within 2 points at 18-16.
Canterbury weren't having any of that though, they replied almost immediately with another try to Thorne and then Billy Fulton grabbed the bonus point try for Canterbury late in the game to give them the bonus point and a comfortable 14 point win.
Overall a great game and good to see the All Black players making a big impact. For the second week in a row the Canterbury scrum smashed their opposites, given that this is largely our reserve forward pack it has to be a great sign of things to come. Bring on Auckland next week!