Lack of injuries a relief for Canterbury coach

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 08/10/2012

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Canterbury coach Tabai Matson says getting through the tussle with the Taniwhas casualty-free was "better than a bonus point".

The red-and-blacks' final four-try flurry earned them a 56-11 win over Northland in Whangarei to stay on course for a national premiership home semifinal.

Matson was beaming at the final whistle on Friday night and the grin got even wider when he scanned the ranks in the dressing room and saw there were no new injuries.

"We came through unscathed, which is better than a bonus point," he said yesterday.

Canterbury have now racked up 192 points in their last three matches, but Matson isn't turning cartwheels at that statistical feat.

"It's potentially a bit worrying scoring that many points with the semifinals approaching," he said.

Matson is pleased with Canterbury's finishing and their expansive style but would prefer a couple of tougher contests before the playoffs.

"We definitely need to keep our feet on the ground. We are dispatching teams that are making errors and are also mindful some of the teams we've played are really injury-plagued or coming off short turnarounds."

Canterbury have little time to rest on their laurels. They train today and travel tomorrow to play Hawke's Bay in Napier on Wednesday.

They back up against Bay of Plenty at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Sunday in their final round-robin game.

Matson's men lie fourth on the ITM Cup points table, five points behind Wellington, who trounced Otago 49-22 in Dunedin on Saturday night, scoring seven tries to three.

Meanwhile, returning All Black Ali Williams won the praise of his coach Wayne Pivac as he helped Auckland to a comfortable 36-16 win over North Harbour at Albany yesterday.

He would no doubt have earned a nod of approval from Blues coach Sir John Kirwan and All Blacks selector Grant Fox, who were eyeing him from the stands for bigger things down the line.

Williams, 31, has been sidelined since the June tests against Ireland with a knee injury. The 75-test veteran got through a solid hour's work in his first game for Auckland since 2007, as other more serious leg injuries have kept him out of the provincial scene in recent years.

Williams was a dominant force at lineouts and restarts with his work in the air and he got about the park to contribute in other areas.

The victory assured Auckland of a place in the semifinals and Auckland coach Pivac is looking forward to having Williams at the business end of the championship.

Taranaki turned around a bumbling first 40 minutes to score five tries and book a place in the premiership semifinals against Southland, winning 47-18 at Invercargill yesterday.

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Southland let a nine-point halftime lead slip away, capitulating in the final 20 minutes.

- The Press

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