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Canterbury scrapes home in Whangarei

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Saturday, September 11, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Northland had a chance to steal a match it was always behind in in the last minute, but botched a tap penalty from in front of the Canterbury posts.

Canterbury captain George Whitelock said he was relieved the team could win for the fans back home in earthquake ravaged Christchurch.

Northland have not beaten Canterbury since 1999 and captain Jared Payne said letting in three 'easy tries' in the first half did not help their cause.

Canterbury was over for the first try in the fifth minute after Northland failed to win its own lineout. Stephen Brett and Sonny Bill Williams both timed their passes perfectly and centre Robbie Fruean strode out of two tackles to score his eighth try, one which Brett converted.

Lachie Munro pulled three points back for Northland when Canterbury captain George Whitelock was caught off-side after 11 minutes. Northland centre Jared Payne broke out of his 22m to start a 60m counter-attack which only ended through a bad pass.

After 19 minutes Munro landed his second penalty from in front and only 18m out to narrow the gap to a point. But Canterbury had its second try after a sweeping 60m move which went down both flanks before Williams off-loaded infield to supporting lock Luke Romano. Brett converted to bring up 300 points in the NPC and take Canterbury to a 14-6 lead after 27 minutes.

Lanky lock Isaac Ross grabbed Canterbury's third try in the 34th minute with prop Peter Borlase busting the line and Williams again delivering the final pass. Brett added the extras and the visitor was out to a 21-6 lead.

Northland scored a much-needed try near half-time from a 5m lineout which the home team won and drove to the line with prop Bronson Murray scoring his first try in 90 appearances for the Taniwha. Munro converted from the sideline to close to 21-13 and he kicked his third penalty on the call of half-time to have Canterbury ahead 21-16 at the break.

From the kick-off Borlase was penalised for off-side, but Munro missed his first kick from five, pushing his kick wide. Brett had his first penalty attempt from 35m, but he dragged his kick left from almost in front after 48 minutes.

Northland lock Pat O'Connor was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle on Andy Ellis after 51 minutes and three minutes later Ellis got on the board with a dropped goal after Canterbury had penalty advantage.

As the rain came, both teams lapsed into handling errors as the ball and pitch became slippery. Whitelock was sinbinned in the 63rd minute for laying on the ball, Northland kicking to the corner and opting for a lineout and it paid dividends with No. 8 Cameron Eyre claiming it at the back and going over unopposed. Munro converted from wide out to close it to 24-23.

Brett relieved pressure with a sharp run and kick to the corner which Northland had to take out. Wing Osborne was unable to pick up a low Brett pass with the try-line open after 70 minutes.

Northland stormed back with clever kicking and the pack drove over from another lineout win, but Canterbury hooker Steve Fualau managed to hold it up. After 76 minutes, Munro failed with a long drop kick and a crooked lineout throw did not help the home team.

Brett kicked a dropped goal with two minutes to go to extend the lead to four points, but back came Northland with Murray dragged down centimetres short. Northland had a chance in the dying seconds from a penalty in front of Canterbury's post, but halfback Rhyan Caine threw a pass which went forward and that was the last play.

Scorers were: Northland 23 (Bronson Murray, Cameron Eyre tries; Lachie Munro 2 con, 3 pen) Canterbury 27 (Robbie Fruean, Luke Romano, Isaac Ross tries; Stephen Brett 3 con, dg; Andy Ellis dg). HT: 16-21