Canterbury win extra-time thriller over Taranaki
After 100 minutes of high-intensity rugby, Canterbury will shoot for their fifth consecutive NPC Premiership title in Christchurch next week.
They had to pull out all the stops this afternoon at AMI Stadium to hold off the gallant effort of Taranaki who went close to beating the red-and-black machine for the second time this season.
Canterbury kept their heads and stuck to their tasks and were rewarded by winning one of the most exciting semi-finals in New Zealand's provincial rugby history.
Locked at 27-all after 80 minutes the two sides took a deep breath and headed into two ten-minute halves to determine who would head through to next week's final.
The punters money would have been on Taranaki.
They looked the better side in the lead-up to fulltime after looking flat early in the second half.
Instead of a game of rugby, the match became a war of attrition.
A battle in which only the toughest, smartest and most passionate side were ever going to win.
That side had been Taranaki who brought plenty of pride to the match and did what few teams have been able to do this year - trouble the Canterbury side.
Especially in the closing quarter of normal time, they were ruthless and had their opposition gasping in the big ones.
The signs were ominous early in the first five minutes of extra time when Taranaki camped down in the Canterbury defensive end and looked intent on settling themselves in for the night.
But determined defence from the red-and-blacks kept them out and from a nothing play they set themselves up down the other end of the field after Johnny McNicholl darted down the line before putting Rhys Llewellyn down the sideline who was held up over the line.
From the scrum Canterbury looked to set some forward momentum but were pinged by ref Mike Fraser under the new five-second rule after the ball sat at the base of the ruck for too long.
But the momentum had changed hands.
After looking dead-on-their-feet for the last half hour, Canterbury were back to being enthused and a turnover saw Wyatt Crockett burrow over for his second try of the match under the sticks to give his side the lead.
As the two sides squared off for the second of the ten minutes halves, it was no Taranaki who looked dead on their feet.
But as it has been all season their passion and determination remained to the maximum until George Whitelock struck a dagger through their hearts when he scored after just two and a half minutes which after Bleyendaal's conversion saw Canterbury out by 14.
A Bleyendaal penalty put the game beyond doubt, but one of the most talked about men in New Zealand rugby this week had another thing to say.
And when Jordan Taufua, who at the beginning of the week was a Tasman Mako, sprinted 30 metres to score in the corner you could have been mistaken him for someone who had played for the red-and-blacks all year judging by the way he celebrated.
So Canterbury shoot for their fifth national provincial rugby championship in a row taking on the winner of the Auckland and Wellington semifinal.
Canterbury 51 (Wyatt Crockett 2, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Jordan Taufua; Tom Taylor 1 conv. 5 pen, Tyler Bleyendaal 3 conv. 1 pen.)
Taranaki 27 (James Marshall, Jason Eaton, Chris Walker tries; Beauden Barrett 1 conv. 1 pen.)
Halftime: 18-17 Fulltime: 27 all
- © Fairfax NZ News
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