15 points: Tyler Bleyendaal
Canterbury’s superb start to the season continued after they claimed a deserved 58-27 victory over Waikato in Hamilton on Friday.
The men from Christchurch showed why they have won the ITM Cup for the past six seasons with a dominant display.
They outscored their hosts by eight tries to three and secured their bonus point, shortly before half-time, when replacement wing Milford Keresoma scored their fourth try with his first touch of the ball, after coming on as a replacement for Johnny McNicholl.
Earlier, Canterbury made the perfect start when they scored three tries inside the opening 10 minutes via Codie Taylor, Matt Todd and Matt Symons.
Taylor’s effort – which was scored in the second minute – was the best of the lot and came after he ran on to a pass from McNicholl, who offloaded in front of Waikato’s try-line after beating five defenders.
Tyler Bleyendaal only managed to convert Todd’s five-pointer and added a penalty in the 12th minute but Waikato struck back via a Joe Webber try which was set up by Damian McKenzie.
The home side’s pivot set off on a run before delivering a perfectly weighted chip kick which he gathered inside Canterbury’s 22. There was still work to do, but he had the presence of mind to throw an inside pass to Webber who scored under the posts.
Waikato were slowly clawing their way back and narrowed the gap to 10 points, in the 24th minute, thanks to a superb 59 metre penalty from Albert Nikoro which had the home crowd in raptures.
The visitors didn’t panic however, and soon extended their lead when Bleyendaal added another penalty minutes two later, but McKenzie struck back with another three-pointer in the 28th minute.
Canterbury then secured their try-scoring bonus-point via Keresoma in the 37th minute and Bleyendaal added the extras which have the champions a 30-13 lead at the interval.
Waikato were fastest out of the blocks in the second half when their captain Brad Weber got over the whitewash in the 46th minute and, when McKenzie added the conversion, the Mooloo men still believed they could pull off an unlikely win with the score at 30-20.
Canterbury killed of their hopes five minutes later, however, when Bleyendaal showed superb leg drive to crash over from close quarters after running on to a pass from Todd.
The visitors’ fly-half injured his ankle in the process which meant Willi Heinz slotted the conversion and the scrum-half soon added another two-pointer after Patrick Osborne crossed over for Canterbury’s sixth try.
Waikato were now well and truly buried but Weber managed another try in the 62nd minute which gave them some hope of at least securing a try-scoring bonus point.
That wasn’t to be, however, as Canterbury finished the stronger of the two sides. They added insult to Waikato’s injury with two further tries via replacements Jack Goodhue and Mitchell Drummond to seal the victory which moves them to the top of the points standings.
Tries: Weber 2, Webber
Cons: McKenzie 3
Pens: McKenzie, Nikoro
Tries: Taylor, Todd, Symons, Keresoma, Bleyendaal, Osborne, Goodhue, Sanders
Cons: Bleyendaal 2, Heinz 3, Drummond
Pens: Bleyendaal 2
Waikato: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Declan O’Donnell, 13 Jordan Payne, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Adam Burn, 7 Zak Hohneck, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 David Morgan, 4 Nick Ross, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 James McGougan, 18 Josh Tyrell, 19 Marty Holah, 20 Harrison Levien, 21 Wharenui Hawera, 22 Shayne Anderson.
Canterbury: 15 Richie Mo’unga, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Jed Brown, 6 Matt Todd, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Joel Everson, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Mitchell Drummond, 21 Jack Goodhue, 22 Milford Keresoma.
Referee: Shane McDermott