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Canterbury make it six ITM Cups in a row

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Sportal.co.nz     26 Oct 2013     Getty Images

Wellington, perennially the loser at the action end of New Zealand's season, were pressured into mistakes at vital stages and Canterbury, claiming their sixth successive title, were not slow to seize their chances.

It was typical Canterbury rugby: squeezing the opposition, mounting sustained periods of attack, and then taking advantage of errors by Wellington.

Under the circumstances it helped to have experience in the shape of Canterbury captain and flanker George Whitelock, halfback Andy Ellis, second five-eighths Ryan Crotty along with dangerous runners like wing Patrick Osborne and a bustling hooker like Ben Funnell.

And Canterbury used them all to force Wellington into the dangerous game of playing catch-up rugby through the second half.

A nothing kick in the eighth minute from a Wellington scrum by halfback Frae Wilson had disastrous consequences. It went to wing Patrick Osborne along the ground. However, he picked it up with ease and set off down the sideline in a fine burst before backhanding a pass to supporting halfback Andy Ellis who scored.

Canterbury attempted to pin Wellington in their own 22m area with some determined play but with a strong wind at their tail, Wellington were always able to clear the ball 50m or more with downfield kicks. Their one chance was lost when fullback Tom Taylor lost the ball as he attempted, at full stretch to complete the touchdown.

When in their own half, Canterbury conceded penalties and that allowed first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga to firstly land a penalty goal, and then in the 34th minute to cap a period of Wellington dominance by breaking onto a superb pass from flanker Ardea Savea from the base of a ruck to touch down and convert.

Poor Wellington play in their own 22m are two minutes into the second half, firstly through a chargedown of a clearance kick and then a speculator from Savea which went straight to flanker George Whitelock who charged at the line. He sucked in Wellington defenders and the ball was flung wide for second five-eighths Ryan Crotty to score.

Canterbury camped in Wellington's 22m area and twice required decisions of the Television Match Official as firstly prop Joe Moody and then flanker Luke Whitelock went close to scoring only to come up short on video evidence. The consequence for Moody was frustrating as he was taken from the field with a knee injury which could have him doubt for the All Blacks' end of year tour.


However, it proved a case of third time lucky when centre Adam Whitelock cut inside and grounded the ball just short of the line with first five-eighths Tyler Bleyendaal coming in to pick up the ball and touch it down.

Wellington relished finally being able to get their hands back on the ball from the re-start and the substitute prop Reg Goodes had an impact with some charging runs and that freed up Savea and Sopoaga to probe gaps in the Canterbury defences.

But no sooner had Sopoaga kicked a penalty goal to reduce the deficit to six when Taylor responded with his first of the night.

And it was appropriate in the last act of the game, after a breakout run by replacement hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone, that George Whitelock was awarded the final try.


Scorers:

Wellington 13 (Lima Sopoaga tries: Sopoaga con, 2 pen ) Canterbury 29 (Andrew Ellis, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal, George Whitelock tries; Tom Taylor 3 con, pen ). HT: 10-7