For a few minutes it appeared rugby carnage was set to occur at Toll Stadium in Whangarei as Canterbury ran rampant but Northland came back to give almost as good as they got before going down 34-52 in their Mitre 10 Cup game.
They might live at opposite ends of the competition – Canterbury the dominant side of the Premiership and Northland battling at the tail end of the Championship – but you wouldn’t have thought so for much of this game.
Canterbury were always going to be the dominant side, but Northland in spite of conceding at a point of minute at the start of the game made their own contribution in a superb demonstration of positive intent and a refusal to be daunted
Canterbury may have been running many of their lesser players involved but when wing Marshall Suckling crossed for the first try 1min 48sec into the game, the die was cast.
Canterbury revelled in the perfect conditions with long periods of phase play as passes, both short and long, were moved around the field as they probed for openings. Initially they came the way of tries to the three-quarters Suckling and George Bridge, on debut, and snaring two in the first half. But they were joined by fullback Johnny McNicholl and centre Jack Goodhue, both having been heavily involved in earlier try-scoring movements.
It all seemed too easy for Canterbury but they became victims of their own success as they went through a flat patch and Northland pounced. They scored in the 25th minute courtesy of a lineout drive which yielded the first of three tries on the night for lock Josh Goodhue, the twin brother of the Canterbury centre. His second came from a lineout drive and the third was a chargedown of first five-eighths Ben Volavola’s attempted clearing kick.
It was that sort of night.
Northland’s Dan Hawkins had a better night of it in the goal-kicking department largely helped by the fact that his players weren’t scoring as many tries in the corner as Canterbury managed. That resulted in a difficult night for Canterbury’s starting first five-eighths Ben Volavola who managed to convert only two of Canterbury’s first seven tries.
But Volavola did enough with the ball in hand to demonstrate his skill in the role and when he was substituted Jordie Barrett came out to play at second five-eighths and picked up a 59th minute try. And for good measure he demonstrated his long-range goal-kicking style by landing a 49m penalty goal.
Josh Goodhue had a big night for Northland but flanker Jam Ram had a busy time of it in the loose while halfback Sam Nock was busy in keeping Northland in the hunt for a long period of the game. They had their reward in the 66th minute when replacement forward Howard Sililoto scored the bonus point try.
Soon after Sililoto was in the action again when the victim of a shoulder charge from Canterbury prop Lee Roy Atalifo and when they exchanged punches it was Atalifo who was sin-binned to miss the last seven minutes of the game.
NORTHLAND – 34
Tries: Joshua Goodhue (25,47,51), Howard Sililoto (66)
Penalties: Daniel Hawkins (10,31)
Cons: Daniel Hawkins (26,48,52,66)
CANTERBURY – 52
Tries: Marshall Suckling (1,21),George Bridge (3,35),Johnny McNicholl (7) ,Jack Goodhue (40), Matt Todd (49),Jordie Barrett (59)
Penalties: Richie Mo’unga (72), Jordie Barrett (76)
Cons: Ben Volavola (23,50), Richie Mo”unga(59)