Canterbury too classy for home team Tasman in Mitre 10 opener

Fullback George Bridge is one of four Canterbury players ruled out of the Ranfurly Shield game against Otago with a virus.
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Fullback George Bridge is one of four Canterbury players ruled out of the Ranfurly Shield game against Otago with a virus.

Canterbury have delivered a decisive early-season statement of intent following a clinical 39-0 Mitre 10 Cup rugby win over Tasman in Nelson.

In a rematch of last year's premiership final, defending champions Canterbury were again in dominant form as they eventually outscored Tasman by five tries to none. 

Canterbury certainly left no-one in any doubt about their overall superiority in an emphatic display at Trafalgar Park. There was plenty of pace, precision and purpose to Canterbury's efforts, both on attack and defence, as Tasman struggled to match Canterbury's intensity.

Canterbury midfielder Rob Thompson busts through Tasman's defence.
PHOTOSPORT

Canterbury midfielder Rob Thompson busts through Tasman's defence.

Canterbury applied relentless pressure from the outset and were finally rewarded after seven minutes when fullback George Bridge lunged over from an attacking scrum for an early 7-0 lead.

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Tasman's attempts to break out of their own territory were met by a solid defensive wall as Canterbury's line speed kept the home team comfortably in check.

Canterbury player Ben Funnell on the charge.
CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOSPORT

Canterbury player Ben Funnell on the charge.

While Tasman's persistence eventually earned them some territorial reward, first five-eighth Mitchell Hunt's wayward goalkicking contrasted starkly to the accuracy of his counterpart Richie Mo'unga who helped push Canterbury's lead out to 13-0.

And when big lock Dominic Bird emerged from the bottom of a clinical forward drive with Canterbury's second try, Tasman were suddenly facing a decisive 20-0 deficit heading into the halftime break.

Canterbury's ability to slow down Tasman's ball supply at the breakdowns didn't help the home team's fluency, although it didn't affect Tasman's intent as they continued to move the ball.

Canterbury player Dominic Bird gets tackled.
CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOSPORT

Canterbury player Dominic Bird gets tackled.

It took a while for Canterbury to reassert themselves in the second half, No 8 Luke Whitelock eventually capping a powerful individual performance with their third try, again from relentless forward pressure, to help increase the score to 27-0 after 28 minutes.

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Second five-eighth Rob Thompson then received a lovely pass from his midfield partner Tim Bateman to secure Canterbury's try-scoring bonus point with just minutes remaining, leaving big lock Mitchell Dunshea to cap off a convincing win.

For Canterbury head coach Glenn Delaney, it was an encouraging display of character by his players.

"We got a lot right ... but that first 20 minutes after halftime, I thought Tasman put us under a huge amount of pressure," he said.

"We showed a lot of character and resilience to deal with that, because we were really struggling there at times. I think they threw the kitchen sink at us and we managed to hold them.

"I think that was probably a pivotal moment because if Tasman had got a little bit of purchase and some points there, I think they would have ridden through the rest of the game.

"We started well. Our attack works, it delivers us opportunities to create and at the end of the day, I think we had an appetite to defend and they threw a lot at us."

Whitelock led a strong Canterbury forward effort in which loose forwards Tom Sanders and Jed Brown, locks Dunshea and Bird and hooker Ben Funnell played significant roles. 

Thompson and Bateman were impenetrable in midfield to match their creativity, while Mo'unga was all class, complemented by a faultless goalkicking display.

Tasman fullback James Lowe, winger Tima Faingaanuku and No 8 Shannon Frizell looked their most threatening ball carriers in an otherwise disappointing first up effort for the home team as the turned over too much possession to their classy opposition.

It was a tough night for Tasman head coach Leon MacDonald.

"I think their intensity at the breakdown was better than ours [and] that meant that they had fast ball and we had slow ball and they were able to get over the advantage line because of it and we were always chasing our tails," he said.

"I thought we did that better in the first part of the second half. We actually attacked that breakdown a lot better, we were a bit quicker to the breakdown and there was a period there we started stringing some phases together ... then that last pass or a dropped ball at the end stifled things.

"I don't think we got any part of our game going tonight so it was a massive lift in what we've experienced pre-season, no doubt about that, and there's plenty for us to sink our teeth into next week, that's for sure."

AT A GLANCE

Canterbury 39 (George Bridge, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Rob Thompson, Mitchell Dunshea tries, Richie Mo'unga 3 con, 2 pen, Brett Cameron con) 

Tasman 0. HT: 20-0.

 - Stuff

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