Canterbury rout Mid Canterbury to retain Ranfurly Shield in Ashburton
Two emphatic Ranfurly Shield defences in the bag, now Canterbury coach Glenn Delaney has some decisions to make.
Having watched his side dispatch Mid Canterbury 69-7 in Ashburton on Friday, the first-year coach will quickly move on and set about finalising his roster for the looming Mitre 10 Cup.
Canterbury and the rest of the national provincial championship (NPC) teams will name their squads on Tuesday, before the competition kicks off on August 17.
Delaney has most of his squad locked in, but will use the weekend to trawl over the video of his team's third successful Shield defence of their 15th tenure before finalising it.
Having led 33-0 at halftime, the defending NPC champions highlighted the gulf between the competitions as they went on to run in 11 tries to one and blitz the Heartland Championship side at the Ashburton Showgrounds.
Wing Marshall Suckling and hooker Nathan Vella bagged doubles in the romp, which followed the 71-5 flogging they dished out to Wanganui in June's Shield defence in Christchurch.
"That's pretty much that [pre-season], so things to think about, which is great," Delaney said after the match.
"I think we're in good shape as a province. Now we've got to make sure we've got the right men going into that squad and then we start preparing for Tasman, which is going to be a cracker."
Despite missing injured Crusaders lock Mitch Dunshea (ankle sprain), Canterbury's lineout feasted on the home side's throw, as they did against Wanganui.
Hamish Dalzell was a menace, but that was only one part of his game to shine in Canterbury's final hit out before they visit Tasman in the season opener.
He used his giant frame as a battering ram, knocking over would-be tacklers at will to give his side front foot ball, and there was even a try for him in the waning minutes.
"I know he's a lineout forward, I know he can do that," Delaney said when discussing Dalzell's standout performance.
"But the play around the field, particularly that first half, I thought he carried really, really well and he put some good, physical shots in. He will be a bit tired in there because he put in a big shift in today.
"He's a big man, and when he starts imposing himself like that it really fires everyone up behind him."
New Zealand under-20s World Cup winner Josh McKay was one of four Canterbury players to make their debut in the match, with himself and outside back Nigel Gibb, who beat four defenders on his way to the line, nabbing tries in the blowout win.
McKay started on the wing, but played the entire second half at pivot after starting first-five eighth Brett Cameron was forced off with a head-knock.
"I thought he adapted really well, because he hasn't played there for a long time," Delaney said of the former Christchurch Boys' High School first-five.
"It shows that he's got a unique ability called pace. Which, if he gets in trouble, he can get out of it pretty quick."
Canterbury welcomed back three Super Rugby players - prop Alex Hodgman and loose forwards Tom Sanders and Jed Brown - for the match, and can expect plenty more to re-join the team next week as preparation ramps up.
Mid Canterbury has lost all 13 of their Ranfurly Shield challenges, with eight of the defeats against Canterbury.
Canterbury 69 (Jed Brown, Tom Sanders, Brett Cameron, Marshall Suckling 2, Nathan Vella 2, Josh McKay, Nigel Gibb, Poasa Waqanibau, Hamish Dalzell tries; Cameron 4 con, McKay 3 con) Mid Canterbury 7 (Maleli Sau try; Jason Kjestrup con) HT: 33-0