South Canterbury too classy for Mid Canterbury in Hanan Shield clash
Brad Hemopo could be the missing link that South Canterbury needs to be a real contender for the Meads Cup.
The athletic, ball carrying No.8 had a huge impact in his debut against Mid Canterbury.
He scored two tries in the 31-16 win, which also saw South Canterbury comfortably retain the Hanan Shield.
Hemopo also made several other strong runs and was very good on defence.
South Canterbury's other loan player Shayne Anderson was also very impressive against the Hammers.
Anderson looked far more comfortable at centre than fullback, and made three superb clean breaks leaving former one-test All Black Regan King in his wake.
His midfield partner Vatiliai Tora also caused Mid Canterbury plenty of headaches and scored a brilliant individual try.
Hooker Marac Beckham also had a lively game and looks at ease in representative rugby, despite only having played three games.
Veteran prop Matt Fetu also stepped up and made very strong ball carries, while Nick Strachan was also in all the action.
South Canterbury assistant coach Grant McFarlane was happy with the performance which kept his side in semi-final contention.
"We were a bit hot and cold at times but showed good intent when we had the ball.
"There are still things to work on but things are going in the right direction.
"The result was huge in terms of the Heartland Championships and it was also great to retain the Hanan Shield, which means a lo to the team."
Mid Canterbury co coach Craig Dunlea said his side never really got going.
"There were little things that let us down and then the game got away from us a bit.
"I was happy with the way we came back at the end but it was a bit late."
Mid Canterbury best were captain Eric Duff while young No.8 Sam Finau made some strong runs in the first half. Substitute Seat Koroitamana also had an impact off the bench.
The game at the Ashburton Showgrounds meandered between the 22s for the first 30 minutes, until Hemopo drove over from close range.
Open side Nick Strachan was next to score when South Canterbury opted for a quick tap close to the line.
Halfback Willie Wright converted both fpr 14-0 halftime lead.
Early in the second half Mid Canterbury opted to kick two penalties to close the to eight points.
South Canterbury then went further ahead after a strong run from Beckham, leaving wing Kalavini Leatigaga to score his easiest try of the season, diving over from two metres out.
With 60 minutes gone Tora scored the bonus point try, with a tremendous solo effort, when he used his strength to brush defenders off and then beat the fullback to score.
Mid Canterbury captain Eric Duff then got one back. The lock, standing out wide ran in untouched as the South Canterbury defence was caught out and at 24-11 the host had a sniff.
Hemopo however extended the lead with his second after a good bust.
Mid Canterbury had the final say when wing Maleli Sau sprinted in, to finish off a move that started in their own half.
In the end the South Canterbury pack dominated, especially at scrum time, and the edge paid big dividends.
South Canterbury will however face a big test at Alpine Energy Stadium on Saturday when they take on defending champions and title favourites Wanganui,
The 'Butcher Boys' are one of three unbeaten teams after three rounds of the Heartland Championships.
They are joint leaders the championship with Horowhenua Kapiti, while South Canterbury and Buller are tied just a point adrift.
At a glance: South Canterbury 31 (Brad Hemopo 2, Nick Strachan, Kalavini Leatigaga, Vatiliai Tora tries; Willie Wright 3 con) Mid Canterbury 16 (Maleli Sau, Eric Duff tries; Jarred Percival 2 pen) . HT: 14-0