Canterbury picked themselves up after their last round loss and dictated terms from the outset to beat Otago 45-34 in an enterprising Mitre 10 Cup game in Christchurch on Saturday.
Canterbury quickly settled into their stride with none of the hesitancy that marked their loss to Manawatu.
Wing Johnny McNicholl, as so often, provided the attacking spark that resulted in Canterbury’s first try. He burst through the mid-field off an in-pass from first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga. Stopped just short of the goal-line, the support arrived and halfback Ere Enari popped a pass to lumbering prop Alex Hodgman went over.
Otago’s defence was given a prolonged work out before finally Canterbury found a way through for second five-eighths Rob Thompson to score by the goalposts after 24 minutes.
McNicholl joined the backline from his right wing and featured twice in a sweeping movement which resulted in a superb round-the-back pass to wing Nathan Earle for the try after 20 minutes.
Canterbury looked set to run away with the game after a turnover coming after Otago prop Paul Grant dropped the ball on Canterbury’s 22m line. No.8 Luke Whitelock sized up his options and slipped a long kick downfield. It was put into touch, but Canterbury seized on the ball to throw it in quickly and with McNicholl and fullback Jordie Barrett featuring in the build-up, flanker Billy Harmon broke a tackle and headed for the goal-line to take Canterbury out to 24-6.
However, Otago refused to be bowed and some intense work with ball in hand at the time the halftime hooter sounded had its reward when centre Matt Faddes linked nicely with wing Fa’asiu Fuata’i scoring.
Canterbury returned from the break seemingly affronted by Otago’s try and put two tries on the board in the first six minutes. Working a planned move from a lineout, Mo’unga doubled round and slipped a wipers kick into some wide open real estate and as the fast men wound up the bounce went to McNicholl who got the ball down in the corner.
Then in a mid-field play a lovely in-pass from Whitelock found lock David McDuling on hand and he cleared out for the goal-line to score.
Some sustained scrummaging pressure by Otago finally paid off when replacement back Tei Walden ran a lovely line to find an easy way over the line.
Walden was back in the action soon after when he broke the line again to create a ruck chance which Otago grabbed and Faddes charged toward the line and then flicked a back pass to No.8 Paul Grant in support and the captain scored Otago’s third.
But hopes of getting closer were lost when Otago failed to secure the re-start and from a lineout in the 22m area, Canterbury worked a rolling maul where replacement hooker Nathan Vella was able to score.
With time running out Otago mounted an effort to score a bonus point try and in spite one heart in the mouth moment when it looked like a pass had been intercepted by McNicholl, it wasn’t held and replacement forward Naulia Dawai got over after the hooter.
Canterbury 45 (Alex Hodgman, Rob Thompson, Nathan Earle, Johnny McNicholl, Billy Harmon, David McDuling, Nathan Vella tries; Richie Mo’unga 5 con)
Otago 34 (Fa’asiu Fuata’i, Paul Grant, Naulia Dawai, Tei Walden tries; Fletcher Smith con, 2 pen; Scott Eade 3 con)