Ellesmere reclaims Southbridge Shield
A dominant second half had Ellesmere reclaim the Southbridge Shield off North Canterbury 35-20 in the annual country representative rugby clash in Kaiapoi on Saturday.
Ball retention and strong defence had Ellesmere come from behind to claim the shield for the tenth time in 12 years.
North Canterbury dominated the opening 30 minutes to lead 17-6 before the visitors struck twice before halftime to take a one-point lead at the turn.
In the second half it was all Ellesmere, as they strung together long passages in possession and backed it up with a solid defensive line, denying the holders any opportunities.
North Canterbury first five Lance Taylor scored after just four minutes after wing Pita Sekilagi regathered a bomb and put the front rower away and Brook Retallick added the extras.
Ellesmere returned fire with two penalties from Shannon Donald before Retallick landed one of his own from 45m to make it 10-6.
A quick tap from North Canterbury halfback Freeman Eder caught Ellesmere on the back foot and had Mike Keane go over for the hosts second try, with Retallick converting to lead 17-6 after 30 minutes.
Sekilagi produced a poor clearing kick under pressure, and Ellesmere capitalised out-flanking the scrambling defence to put Jale Masi over out wide.
The momentum had swung and Ellesmere came back on attack.
On the brink of halftime, Lance Taylor's clearing kick was charged down by Tim Murgatroyd and the midfielder tidied up his handy work to score the try. Donald converted for an 18-17 lead at halftime.
The sides traded penalties to start the second half before Ellesmere dominated possession and turned the pressure into points.
One passage of play would have reached 30 phases before a thumping goal line tackle from Keane stopped Ellesmere in their tracks.
But not for long.
Another prolonged attack put wing Hayden Meikle over for their third try and Donald added the conversion for an eight point advantage on the 55 minute mark.
North Canterbury kept attempting to counter punch but Ellesmere defence kept coming up with answers.
When Meikle was yellow carded in the 65th minute, for his side's repeated infringements at the ruck, North Canterbury sniffed their opportunity but they failed to capitalise.
A rare missed lineout, some poor decisions and all the while superb scrambling defence from Ellesmere kept North Canterbury at bay.
Back to 15, Ellesmere delivered the knock out blow with another lengthy passage of attack finished off by fullback Mark Maitland.
Donald added the extras for a haul of 12 points to seal a 35-12 win and send the shield back across the Waimakariri.
The two arch rivals will now join forces for the Canterbury Country campaign after the conclusion of the club season.
North Canterbury and Ellesmere have their final week of round robin play this Saturday.
Ellesmere's top four is set, just not the order, while there is plenty still to play for in North Canterbury.