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Canterbury has injury woes

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Sunday, October 19, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The victory earned Canterbury a place in the final against Wellington in the capital city, but the Canterbury changing room resembled a war zone after the unforgiving clash at AMI Stadium with All Blacks Andrew Ellis and Casey Laulala and exciting wing James Paterson all in serious doubt.

And the soft manner in which Canterbury coughed up two first-half tries to Bay flanker Karl Lowe also concerned Penney as its tight defence has been a hallmark of the Canterbury season.

"We were exposed a bit on D [defence] which has happened a lot this year and we will have to regroup and reassess why we were vulnerable at times," Penney said.

"And I think we had a wee bit of anxiety in the group. They desperately wanted to do well and it probably didn't manifest itself always in a positive manner. But you can't deny the effort and the energy that was there. We just have to try and get the psychological side of it better."

However, Penney said he was happy to be in the final after seeing his team bow out at the quarter-finals and semi-finals in the last two years.

"We are in with a fighter's chance. Tonight was a pretty bruising encounter and Hawke's Bay demonstrated they were worthy semi-finalists. They played their hearts out and I'm sure they're very proud of their performance if disappointed.

"Equally, we are proud of our effort and it was good to come out with the result."

Hawke's Bay coach Peter Russell said Canterbury's two tries in quick order midway through the second half delivered the knock-out punch.

"It was an even game right through but they took their chances, we blew ours and that basically was the game.

"We put pressure on their second phase and I'd like to see a lot of work tidied up around those ruck areas and not see red-and-black jerseys coming over the top of our rucks all the time."

Asked whether his money was on Wellington or Canterbury in the final, Russell said: "I'm a North Island man, I might go Wellington.

"But it will tough. Wellington is a long-range team who like to score early whereas Canterbury grinds teams down. They want teams to make mistakes and if Canterbury played like they did tonight they'll grind Wellington into the ground."