Canterbury crush Wellington to win Ranfurly Shield
Wellington relinquished rugby's Ranfurly Shield in timid fashion when finishing a poor second to Canterbury at Westpac Stadium tonight.
Canterbury were a class apart as they won the Air NZ Cup match 36-14 after dominating all facets of play, suffocating Wellington with pressure they simply could not live with.
The writing was daubed on the wall in thick red ink by halftime when Canterbury had powered their way to a 26-0 lead, leaving the home side gasping for breath as they searched for answers.
There were none, however, because Canterbury continued to apply all the pressure in the second half as well to regain the shield for the first time since 2007.
Wellington captain Jacob Ellison said the memory of such a comprehensive defeat would linger for a long time.
"We won't forget that one, it will hurt us deep. We didn't fire a shot and up front we were not too happy.
"We just did not fire in the set piece. We have to go back to the drawing board and sort it out."
His Canterbury opposite George Whitelock could not be accused of hyperbole when he described his team's performance as "pretty good".
"We really dug in and showed what we got."
All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter accounted for 21 points with his goalkicking return of eight-from-10 attempts, which complemented tries by skipper Whitelock, centre Tim Bateman and replacement hooker Corey Flynn.
Canterbury were all over Wellington at the set piece, both scrum and lineout, and were too physical for the home side at the breakdown where they turned over possession regularly.
Having lifted the shield off Auckland with a stunning 27-0 result last season, Wellington's tenure ended at four matches after they'd seen off the challenges of Wairarapa Bush, Wanganui, Otago and Auckland.
They were not even in the contest tonight, finding themselves on the back foot from the outset as Canterbury threw themselves into their work.
Wellington were knocked off balance early and barely regained their poise as they conceded a series of penalties at the breakdown, gifting Canterbury easy points via the boot of Carter.
The Canterbury loose forwards trio of Whitelock, Michael Paterson and All Black Richie McCaw swamped the home side in the tackle, and backed up by their tight forwards, the visitors had both the intent and the numbers to call the shots.
Whitelock scored in the 19th minute when Wellington attempted to run their way out of trouble, only to see wing David Smith swallowed up by red and black jerseys just out from his own line. The Canterbury forwards arrived en mass and Whitelock emerged with the ball.
Canterbury's superior scrum gave them a solid launching pad in the last minute of the half and they made it count when Bateman scored after accepting a clever offload from second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, who attracted three defenders.
The challengers stayed on top during the third quarter, even if they had only one Carter penalty to show for it until replacement hooker Corey Flynn used his low body position to burrow over the tryline from a ruck.
Wellington continued to play a bit-part role in the match despite late tries to Hosea Gear and Ma'a Nonu which could not hide their deficiencies.
Canterbury's intensity had slipped by this stage and the Wellington backs appreciated the open space as a breakout by Smith ended with Gear crossing before lock Daniel Ramsay surged down the right-hand touchline before popping a delicate overhead pass to Nonu.