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Canterbury top table and Auckland

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Saturday, October 8, 2005    allblacks.com    Photosport

After hanging on against Waikato and Wellington, the impressive four-try win ensured the Shield would stay locked in Canterbury’s trophy cabinet over the coming summer. It also means captain Reuben Thorne and his men claim the top Air New Zealand NPC qualifying spot... and a home semifinal to boot.

For Auckland, the night’s frustrations were best summed up by the fact the loss came despite a 63% dominance of possession and a favourable 17-4 penalty count.

Earlier, the start from the locals couldn’t have been better: a superb lineout take from All Black Chris Jack allowing No 8 Mose Tuiali'i to come close, before Jack was involved again in putting ever-present fullback Ben Blair over in the 4th minute.

Blair’s opposite Brent Ward had the opportunity to reply immediately, only to watch the crosswind take his 23m penalty attempt wide. Auckland nevertheless began building continuity and the free-flowing attacking rugby that has hallmarked their rugby in 2005 soon followed.

But Canterbury’s staunch defence held.

It went one better with the drive of the match in the 25th minute - hooker Corey Flynn soaring over the resulting ruck from 1m out to score his team’s second try.

And the best was yet to come: wing Caleb Ralph breaking loose for Tuiali’i to charge up the middle and - back after breaking his leg in the Philips Tri Nations almost two months ago - a free-running Dan Carter set-up captain Thorne along the right-hand touchline. Blair followed up the classy try with his first conversion of the match.

17-0 Canterbury.

Despite an edge in the possession stakes, the news only got worse for Auckland as a nasty collapsed scrum resulted in No 2 Derren Witcombe being stretchered off the field in the 33rd minute.

Halftime score: 17-0 Canterbury

The 43rd minute and the boot of Auckland fullback Ward finally put his team on the board. Carter replied immediately and the tit-for-tat continued as Ward knocked over a second penalty.

20-6 Canterbury, yet even as Ward lined-up his third three-pointer the try Auckland were so badly searching for seemed nowhere in sight.

A fourth penalty followed and more hope was sent the visitors’ way with the sin-binning of Canterbury’s Flynn for killing the ball as the match entered its fourth and final quarter.

The Auckland momentum was to be short-lived.

Next - 14 men and all - came the try that sealed it: Canterbury No 8 Mose Tuiali’i the man to bust shortside and find wing Scott Hamilton in support outside him for another superb five-pointer and the bonus point try.

Carter’s sideline conversion was the salt in the wound, the clock running down without any further points being added.

Final score: 27-12 Canterbury

Scorers

Canterbury. Tries: Ben Blair, Corey Flynn, Reuben Thorne, Scott Hamilton. Conversions: Blair, Carter. Penalties: Dan Carter.

Auckland. Penalties: Brent Ward (4).

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