By Myles Hume
Canterbury have conquered not only a strong Northland side but the elements too, as they came away victorious 28-13 at Christchurch’s Rugby Park yesterday.
Although Canterbury were down 10-13 at halftime the signs looked good as Northland failed to pile on the points with a blustering southerly at their backs in the opening spell.
Just ask Tyler Bleyendaal and Ben Funnell who had the impossible task of kicking and lineout throwing, respectively.
Bleyendaal most notable botch-up into the wind was his kick-off that traveled forward nine metres before the wind grasped it, pushing it back behind him. Funnell struggled with throwing the ball in, the wind blowing it onto the Canterbury side on more than one occasion.
With the gusts behind them Northland took control in the first quarter, camping Canterbury down in their half where they restricted them to playing running rugby where they shifted it from side to side with kicking being a nigh on impossible way to gain metres.
The lack of territory and mountain possession was always going to be hard with poor handling leading to Northland’s first try through Cameron Goodhue.
Shifting the ball from side to side inside their 22-metre, a stray Willi Heinz pass hit the ground. A surging Goodhue followed up by toeing the ball through and charged over in the 8th minute.
Northland wing Lachie Munro added the extras on top of an earlier penalty taking the score out to 0-10 in Northland’s favour.
The Canterbury discipline faltered again 10 minutes again and Munro punished the red-and-blacks for holding on, pacing out to a 0-13 lead.
It looked like Canterbury were staring down the barrel for the remaining 20 minutes of the half but their running rugby was soon rewarded through elusive wing Patrick Osborne.
Canterbury capitalised on a Northland mistake in their 22. The backs quickly shoveled it wide to where powerhouse centre Robbie Fruean made a slicing break. Fruean then realised the speedster outside him, in the form of Osborne, giving the ball early to let Osborne streak away 50 metres.
The try sparked the Canterbury revival as they ripped up the Northland defence numerous times to put huge mounds of pressure on Northland.
The pressure got to them as the Christchurch Boys’ High duo of Tyler Bleyendaal and Nasi Manu combined to put Canterbury only three points down going into the break.
Bleyendaal fell centimetres from the line off a scrum setting the ball up for Manu to scurry over.
Turning around to have the wind behind them was when Canterbury had won the game, keeping Northland scoreless for the remainder.
Only nine minutes into the half Canterbury scored through stand-out lock Luke Ramano off a perfect example of a lineout drive – short sharp steps being the key with Bleyendaal converting to boot.
Replacement first five-eighth Tom Taylor added a penalty in the 62nd minute to take the lead out to 23-13
Canterbury launched many attacks looking to secure the bonus point – much needed after numerous losses to premiership teams and it took until the last minute to do so.
Taylor added to his impact role, cutting through a hole in the Northland defence to put fullback Johnny McNicholl in a one-on-one test, who passed easily.
Taylor failed to convert but the banked bonus point was all Canterbury wanted, especially leading into Saturday’s game against a high-flying Taranaki side.
Canterbury sit fourth in the top-tier of the competition on 22 points, two points behind competition leaders Waikato.
Canterbury – 28 (tries: Patrick Osborne, Nasi Manu, Luke Ramano, Johhny McNicholl; Tyler Bleyendaal 1 conv, Tom Taylor 1 pen)
Northland – 13 (tries: Cameron Goodhue; Lachie Munro 1 conv, 2 pen)