Mo'unga shines in Canterbury romp
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
There must be something in the water. Remember the success Leon MacDonald and Aaron Mauger had when thrust into the unfamiliar No 10 jersey at international level?
During Wednesday night's 72-7 domination of Manawatu, it became apparent that 19-year-old Richie Mo'unga could be in that company if he fulfills the potential he has in spades.
Called up for his starting debut, after Bleyendaal (concussion) and Slade (knee) were struck down in last week's loss to Wellington, the rookie, described by captain Andy Ellis as 'the tactician', was at home when running the cutter.
A miscued opening kickoff was quickly atoned for with a 27-point haul, including an impressive try in the first half where he helped the home side dominate territory and possession.
Some deft touches to spark Canterbury's strike plays from set piece showed how he could fit into the Crusaders' structures, while quick thinking to set up one of Milford Keresoma's four tries screamed x-factor.
The performance will allay any fears Scott Robertson had after also losing Tom Taylor, who is in Argentina with the All Blacks.
Bleyendaal should be fit for Saturday's highly anticipated clash with Auckland at Eden Park, but they won't lose much if he fails psychometric testing in coming days.
Depending on how the undefeated Wellington Lions fare against Waikato on Friday, a win in Auckland could wrap up first place on the premiership standings heading into the final two rounds.
Manawatu, four points outside the top four in the championship, have a two-day turnaround before they host Taranaki, who are fresh off a win against Bay of Plenty.
Despite the wet conditions, Canterbury insisted on employing an expansive style of attack and when Nasi Manu broke the line, it provided enough momentum for Ellis to slide over for an 8-0 advantage.
When Tomasi Cama failed to take a spiralling high bomb, the young Mo'unga was on hand to toe the bobbling ball ahead to touch down for his side's second.
The try-scoring action ceased, albeit briefly, as Canterbury absorbed a minor momentum swing before sending prop Sione Faletau over for a memorable debut in the red-and-black jersey.
Ryan Crotty will want to forget his basic error that denied him a certain try after he had done all the hard work to beat the defence. But he wasn't going to be denied a second time as he carried three tacklers over the line as the siren sounded for the break.
That followed Manawatu's only try of the evening, scored by tighthead Chris Eves after he batted down a Patrick Osborne kick 20 metres out.
Canterbury surpassed their previous highest score of 64 against the Turbos, with Paea Fa'anunu and Keresoma dotting down late in the second half.
The latter celebrated the first hat-trick of this year's ITM Cup season with a flurry of three tries in the final quarter.
Canterbury:72(Milford Keresoma 4, Andy Ellis, Richie Mo'unga, Sione Faletau, Johnny McNicholl, Ryan Crotty, Paea Fa'anunu tries; Richie Mo'unga 8 con, 2 pen) Manawatu: 7 (Chris Eves try; Nate George con) HT: 39-7
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