By Myles Hume
The score-line was a fair indication of a match where Canterbury smothered a Taranaki team that failed to turn up at Christchurch’s Rugby Park.
After previously only being one from four against premiership teams, Canterbury shook the demon off their back to convincingly win 27-0 and shoot to the top of the ITM Cup ladder.
Canterbury smothered Taranaki, not allowing them to get into a rhythm by stifling the ball at the second or third phase consistently and the poor goal kicking didn’t help their cause.
Even as Taranaki looked to score for their first time in the 78th minute after Canterbury centre Robbie Fruean barged over for one of his trademark tries, securing the bonus point, Canterbury held out a Taranaki surge to deny any blemishes on their scoreboard.
It only took three minutes for Canterbury to open their account as makeshift wing Johnny McNicholl eluded a defender to gallop 30m for a well-constructed try.
Eight minutes later it was another speedster by the name of Sean Maitland who dotted down in a quality try that would have pleased coaches Rob Penney and Tabai Matson.
As Canterbury secured a lineout, 22m out from the line, the backs pushed two long passes to put Maitland outside his man and selling the dummy to coast over in the corner. First five-eighth Tyler Bleyendaal added the extras this time to put them out to a 12-0 lead.
Canterbury created many opportunities throughout the game but failed to convert with a lack of support meaning Taranaki could squander the Canterbury momentum.
But halfback Willi Heinz broke the trend on the half time hooter where he collected the ball 80m out and provided a deft pass for lock Ash Parker to go over, pleasing the 5000-strong crowd.
Canterbury added to their tally early in the second spell with Bleyendaal punishing Taranaki’s ill discipline to kick a three-pointer to push the deficit out to 20.
The rest of the half was blighted by unconverted chances but Canterbury gained the much needed bonus point try in the 75th minute by Fruean.
A midfield scrum provided the platform for the Tom Taylor to loop round the Canterbury scrum, offload to Matt Todd who drew in two defenders to allow Fruean to smash his way to the line.
The Fruean-Todd combination capped off a good performance from the duo as well as wings Patrick Osborne and Johnny McNicholl making several slicing breaks. Number 8 Nasi Manu added another strong performance to his season being a menace at ruck time and a handful with the ball in hand.
Canterbury have another short turn around this week as they look to lock horns with a struggling Bay of Plenty and establish themselves at the top of the competition leading into the final stages of the competition.