Canterbury bounced back from the disappointment of their unsuccessful Ranfurly Shield challenge with a 52-27 national provincial rugby premiership thumping of Waikato in Hamilton today.
The six tries to three result in front of a crowd of 5800 at Waikato Stadium left Waikato facing a desperate fight now to avoid relegation to the championship division after being in the last two premiership finals.
Waikato looked in danger of being swamped in the first quarter of the match as Canterbury produced some breathtaking attack and the home side fell off tackles left, right and centre.
The result was three tries to the red and blacks in the first 11 minutes and a 19-3 lead to Canterbury, No8 Nasi Manu, centre Robbie Fruean and left winger Johnny McNicholl the try scorers.
A fourth try could easily have been scored in that period but Waikato winger Tim Mikkelson managed to grab a timely intercept on his own 22m line, but home team first-five Piers Francis had to spend some time in the blood bin after collecting an accidental headbutt from prop Wyatt Crockett.
But Waikato did have first use of the breeze and Canterbury did find themselves on the wrong end of a mounting penalty count, particularly in the scrums where tighthead prop Nepo Laulala was the prime offender.
The visitors were further hampered by McNichol being yellow carded in the 18th minute for taking out Waikato halfback Brendon Leonard in the air under a high ball and although Tom Taylor got the next points with a penalty goal for Canterbury it was the home side that scored the next seven-pointer.
Loosehead prop Toby Smith was drive over after Waikato had ignored an overlap in the left corner, Trent Renata converted and Waikato were back in the hunt at 22-10.
But the Canterbury attack was not finished and when flanker Matt Todd robbed ball in the tackle on the Waikato 22 there was an easy try for his sidekick and captain George Whitelock to make it 29-10.
But Waikato, with 80 per cent of the territory and an 8-1 penalty count in their favour, battled back with tries to prop Ben May from a massive driving maul and Leonard from their best attack of the half, skipper Alex Bradley providing the initial impetus and Save Tokula beating his man on the outside before in-passing to the halfback.
That saw Canterbury go to the break ahead 29-24 but without the momentum and the home side started the second spell with a hiss and a roar, an early penalty to Renata closing the gap to 29-27.
Eight minutes later Taylor cancelled that out with a penalty goal of his own from 39m but Waikato maintained the field position with Canterbury twice punished for long kicks that went dead.
But while the try-scoring of the first half dried up the penalties kept coming and Taylor added another long range goal in the 61st minute to make it 35-27.
And with the Canterbury scrum solidified by a halftime replacement the death knell for the home side came from an attack from the set-piece and the replacement tighthead prop Paea Fa'anunu somehow stretched out to score with a massive reach.
Taylor made it 42-27 with the conversion and then rubbed it in with a 48m penalty goal to make it 45-27.
Waikato still had hopes of a bonus point as they attacked out of their half in the dying minutes but Fruean grabbed an intercept near halfway and galloped away to bring up the half century for Canterbury.
Canterbury 52 (Robbie Fruean 2, Nasi Manu, Johnny McNicholl, George Whitelock, Paea Fa'anunu tries; Tom Taylor 5 conversions, 4 penalty goals) Waikato 27 (Toby Smith, Ben May, Brendon Leonard tries; Trent Renata 3 conversions, 2 penalty goals). Halftime 29-24 Canterbury.
- Waikato Times
What have you made of the ITM Cup this season?