Ruthless Canterbury rewrite history books

NZ provincial rugby - year-ender

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
George Whitelock
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
FIVE ON THE TROT: Canterbury captain George Whitelock with the NPC trophy.

Relevant offers

Provincial

Buller lead way in Heartland Championship Horowhenua Kapiti confound the critics Hooker Hika Elliot adds muscle to Poverty Bay Willie Ripia a genius move or more tinkering? Payne-free centre ready to fire up for Waikato Tapping into young talent key for Canterbury Lacklustre Cantabs limp to win over Counties Wellington try fifth first-five in just six matches Waikato make three changes for Otago clash Lock Dominic Bird ready to launch in Pukekohe

The challenge was set for Canterbury to create history - and they did it in style.

Five consecutive national provincial championship titles was an unheard of feat, only Auckland had gone close with four wins on the trot twice, but Canterbury rewrote the books with one of their most dominant seasons on the rugby field.

Under new coach Tabai Matson, who was elevated after the departure of Rob Penney, the red-and-blacks were ruthless, scoring 58 tries in 12 games and averaging 42 points a match.

The backline ran with width, speed and power while a relatively young tight five stood up and were counted against some much more experienced opposition.

There were blimps however, the Jordan Taufua loan agreement in which they called him back from Tasman in the week leading up to the semi-final was ugly, the first round loss to the same team and a missed Ranfurly Shield chance over Taranaki will still hang as low points.

But at the other end of the spectrum, names like Johnny McNicholl, Ben Funnell and Dominic Bird being shoved into the limelight mean the future is in good hands.

They were the best this season. Undoubtedly. But the rest of the pack is chasing hard and teams like Auckland, Wellington, Waikato and Taranaki look to be closing the gap.

Counties Manukau set the nation alight with their razzle dazzle style to win the Championship title over a much improved Otago who, considering their financial woes a year ago, did a good job to feature.

The smaller unions will be happy to see the NZRU have reviewed the format of the competition with changes set for 2013.

The request was put forward by eleven of the 14 provincial unions with only Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland stating they were content with the current format.

Next year the new round-robin, which lasted seven weeks in 2012, will be stretched to nine and the competition is set to kick-off a week earlier.

Provincial rugby's most sought-after prize - the Ranfurly Shield - was held by Taranaki for a good portion of the season before it was handed over to Waikato after they romped home over their neighbours late in the season.

In the Heartland Championship, East Coast ended a golden run for Wanganui with a last minute try in the final in Ruatoria to claim the Meads Cup while Buller claimed honours over South Canterbury in the Lochore Cup. 

Ad Feedback

- Fairfax Media

Special offers
Opinion poll

How long do you think Hawke's Bay will hold the Shield for this time?

Two weeks. Otago will take it easily.

I think they'll defend it until they play Wellington.

The rest of the season. They are too good.

Shield? Hawke's Bay? I thought Counties had it!

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content