NPC wrap: Canterbury villainy in quest to end ‘drought’ title

When is a title drought really a title drought?

Four years without a trophy is certainly a dry period for Canterbury. And don’t they look thirsty to see the silverware again.

The country’s second most successful province, with 14 NPC crowns versus Auckland’s 17, the Reds and Blacks have claimed 12 in the past 26 years.

Cullen Grace is congratulated after scoring one of his two tries in Canterbury's win over Wellington in Christchurch.

Peter Meecham/Getty Images

Cullen Grace is congratulated after scoring one of his two tries in Canterbury’s win over Wellington in Christchurch.

But since their long wait of 14 years between their second title in 1983 and their third in 1997, they haven’t been as long as they currently have to be called champions again.

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Two games into their 2022 campaign, they are heading in the right direction to set the tone, under new coach Marty Bourke.

After their 62-15 demolition of Manawat in the season opener at Palmerston NorthCanterbury followed it up with a 43-10 dispatch from Wellington in Christchurch on Saturday night.

In a game that looked destined for a great battle, with the Lions as the first winners and with a lot of experience and talent in their ranks, it turned into a one-way street at Orangetheory Stadium.

After 35 minutes down 10-8, the hosts got their noses up front again with a George Bridge try before half time, then shutout 28-0 in the second half to earn a second bonus point from as many starts.

Number 8 Cullen Grace went over for two of Canterbury’s six tries and was part of an excellent loose forward effort as the Lions were beaten to the limit on the failure time and again and couldn’t get the most out of their attacks.

Manasa Mataele takes a high ball under pressure from Pepesana Patafilo in Saturday night's game at Orangetheory Stadium.

Peter Meecham/Getty Images

Manasa Mataele takes a high ball under pressure from Pepesana Patafilo in Saturday night’s game at Orangetheory Stadium.

An elbow injury to hooker Brodie McAlister soured the win, although it did make for a debut for young George Bell, who seized the opportunity in an impressive display that, like his Crusaders debut in Perth earlier this year, also included a try.

The news wasn’t so rosy for fellow Crusader province of Tasman, seen alongside them in the Evens Pool.

The Mako, who finished second last season to consecutive titles the two years before, is quite a new outfit and after an unconvincing win over Southland, they then stumbled to a surprise 25-19 defeat to Otago in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon.

In the Odds Pool, both Waikato and Hawke’s Bay remain unbeaten after responding to their epic gold points round with wins.

Defending champions Mooloos defeated Northland 16-10 in the wet Whangārei on Saturday night in a game that saw All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue bounce back from a knee injury but was at fault in spilling the pill as the Taniwha desperate for a match winner.

The Magpies successfully defended the Ranfurly Shield, but only just, in Napier on Friday nightwhile the counties of Manukau came back bellowing late.

At halftime, the hosts were leading 28-6 and in the end they clung to a dramatic 33-32 win – their 12th successful defense, which is equal to the point they enjoyed in 2014-15.

The Log o’ Wood then goes on line on August 27, against North Harbour.

AT A GLANCE

NPC, Rd 2

Auckland 45 (Niko Jones, Quarter Violin, Terrell Peita, Jordan Trainor, Sofai Maka, Hamish Dalzell tries; Simon Hickey 6 con, pen) moment 18 (Ed Fidow, Johnny Galloway tries; Brett Cameron con, 2 pen) HT: 24-11.

Hawke’s Bay 33 (Lincoln McClutchie, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Neria Fomai, Solomone Funaki, Tyrone Thompson tries; McClutchie 4 con) Provinces of Manukau 32 (Ahsee Tuala, Cameron Roigard, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Ioane Moananu tries; Riley Hohepa 3 con, 2 pen) HT: 28-6.

Otago 25 (Ray Nu’u, Thomas Umaga-Jensen tries; Cameron Millar 5 pen) Tasman 19 (Timoci Tavatavanawai, Quentin MacDonald tries; Campbell Parata 3 pen). HT: 11-8.

Waikato 16 (Rhys Marshall try; Damian McKenzie con, 3 pen) Northland 10 (Josh Moorby tries; Rivez Reihana con, pen). HT: 6-10.

Canterbury 43 (Cullen Grace 2, George Bell, George Bridge, Dallas McLeod, Willi Heinz tries; Fergus Burke 4 with, pen, Alex Harford with) Wellington 10 (Trying Pepesana Patafilo; Jackson Garden-Bachop con, pen). HT: 15-10.

Points (games played):

Opportunity Pool: Hawke’s Bay 8 (2), Waikato 7 (2), Manukau Counties 6 (2), Otago 5 (2), Wellington 5 (2), Bay of Plenty 2 (1), Southland 1 (1).

Evens pool: Canterbury 10 (2), Auckland 10 (2), Tasman 5 (2), Northland 5 (2), Taranaki 1 (1), North Harbor 1 (1), Manawatu 0 (2).

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