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NPC Rugby: Canterbury versus North Harbour

National Provincial Rugby Championship
Canterbury versus North Harbour
Jade Stadium Christchurch

CANTERBURY coach Robbie Deans was sure to have had hid players tackling their guts out in practice after letting in a couple of soft tries in the NPC opening loss to Wellington last week.

And the hard word and work obviously paid off as the red and black machine defended like maniacs Friday night as Canterbury restored some pride with a torrid 31-3 victory over North Harbour in appalling conditions at Christchurch's Jade Stadium.

With the southerly blowing cold gusts and the heavens emptying buckets of rain it was night when 'old fashioned Southern style wet weather rugby' was always going to prevail.

New Zealand Colts Ben Blair, Ben Hurst, Johnny Leo'o and Chris Jack combined well with old hands Daryl Gibson, Mark Mayerhoffler, Caleb Ralph and Con Barrell as Canterbury weathered countless Harbour attacks and made the most of their opportunities to dot down three times

Produced by - what was obviously - gut-wrenching commitment the stingy Canterbury defence, which refused to yield despite being hammered at by Harbour recycling a seemingly endless supply of position, was the power which fuelled the engine that drove the hometown victory. Canterbury captain and former All Black centre Daryl Gibson said it was a night to play it tight and confirmed his team stuck perfectly to their game plan.

"The players' stuck to their task. In these conditions we wanted to be putting pressure on them and making them make mistakes.....we did that and it was a good win".

Gibson added the performance without the province's swag of All Blacks demonstrated excellent depth.

"It's great to have the depth we have in Canterbury".

Gibson's opposite North Harbour centre and New Zealand sevens star Rua Tipoki was clear in recognising the reasons for his team's defeat.

"We made too many errors and against a good we were punished for making stupid mistakes.

"The score reflects the fact we basically played the game in our own 22....and it was one of those nights," said Tipoki.

Despite a wealth of possession North Harbour were devoid of tactical nous and an early Marc Ellis effort was the only tangible evidence of amble ball, territory and opportunities.

After the Ellis penalty in the third minute Canterbury wing Caleb Ralph scored the opening try after good lead-up work from midfielder's Meyerhoffler and Gibson.

Prolific scoring fullback Blair converted and added another three penalties to give Canterbury a 16-3 lead at halftime.

Deans' halftime message "keep it simple" was followed by his hard working squad while Harbour continued to make crucial errors that ruined attempts to benefit from possession.

North Harbour's busy halfback Mark Robinson almost scored early in the second half but was stopped short by a great tackle from the terrier like Leo'o.

From this close chance for Harbour play swept down field and a mistake by the visitors' fullback, Jeremy Coulter, saw Meyerhoffler scored to make it 23-3 with Blair's conversion.

A tough forward struggle ensued for the next 20 minutes but North Harbour never looked likely and another Blair penalty and a last minute try to replacement half-back Billy Fulton saw Canterbury complete a convincing
31-3 victory.

© Scoop Media

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