Canty secure home semifinal

The defending champions of the National Provincial Rugby Championship walked off the AMI Stadium pitch in Addington yesterday relieved, excited, but most of all buggered.

On the back of three matches in just over a week, Canterbury deserved to be.

It was mission accomplished, although with a home semifinal against Taranaki on Saturday courtesy of a 63-22 thumping of Bay Of Plenty in front of their loyal fans. However, it may have come at a cost.

Matt Todd (leg), Nasi Manu (leg) and Johnny McNicholl (wrist) were all injured during the match and pulled from the field quickly by coach Tabai Matson who was taking no risks considering the job still ahead of his side.

The seriousness of all three injuries won't be clear until later today.

Yet despite losing Todd and Manu in the first half of the match, Canterbury were still very effective and are easily the form side heading into the playoffs.

Up 16-8 at the break, they put the foot to the floor in the second half, running in seven tries which left Bay Of Plenty gasping for air.

Robbie Fruean was his usual robust self on attack, while Mr Reliable, Tom Taylor, was again flawless, kicking all eight on his attempts on goal.

In their last four matches they have notched up 247 points and conceded just 36. This is even more impressive considering that 22 of those points against came at the end of a hectic week.

"The whole objective of this match has been to secure a home semifinal so it's pleasing we have achieved that," captain George Whitelock said.

"But it wasn't easy, mentally we weren't there in that first half and we knew they were going to bring it to us, especially by disrupting a lot of our ball.

"At halftime we got a bit of a rev up and we knew we just had to work harder and we did that in the 20 minutes after halftime and we got the results."

Both playoff matches for the premiership are to be held on Saturday, and the Canterbury Rugby Football Union will have first pick on which of the two times slots they would like, either 4.35pm or 7.35pm.

It is understood it is their desire to have the early match, meaning Wellington and Auckland will square off in the capital knowing who they will have to face in the final if they win.

"Getting a home semifinal is great, you can stay at home and rest up.

"And in Taranaki we get a chance for revenge but we are going to have to get it right up front, because that's where they are strong and they will really take it to us there."

Canterbury will use most of this week to rest their walking wounded and have only one training session before the semifinal.

The Press