Five in a row for Canterbury
Tom Taylor (Getty Images)
Christchurch - Canterbury continued their domination of New Zealand rugby by winning the national championship Saturday for a record fifth successive year, beating Auckland 31-18 in the final.
Playing on their home ground at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, Canterbury weathered a torrid opening attack by Auckland and trailed 6-13 before piling on 25 unanswered points.
Auckland came back with a try on full-time but by then the game was firmly in Canterbury's grip.
Fullback Tom Taylor scored 23 of Canterbury's points with two tries, two conversions and three penalties, while Telusa Veainu also scored a try and fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal kicked a drop goal.
Auckland's points came from tries to Hadleigh Parkes and Lolagi Visinia, and Gareth Anscombe kicked a conversion and two penalties.
In the clash of New Zealand's most passionate rivals, Auckland put first points on the board when inside centre Parkes scored near the posts to cap a three-minute opening burst after they had regained their own kick off.
Anscombe added the conversion only for Canterbury to strike back almost immediately when Robbie Fruean put Taylor over in the corner.
However, Auckland continued to dominate possession and territory allowing Anscombe to regain the lead with two penalties before Taylor landed his first penalty to ignite the Canterbury revival.
He scored his second try on the stroke of half-time after captain George Whitelock, the only player to have featured in all five championship-winning finals, stole a lineout throw for Canterbury to be up 15-13 at the break.
They rapidly extended the lead after half-time with two Taylor penalties and Bleyendaal's drop goal, before Veainu scored to seal a move that swept the length of the field after scrum-half Andy Ellis pounced on a turnover ball.
With 20 minutes remaining and Canterbury up 31-13, Auckland needed 18 points to get back in the game but they were unable to add to their tally until Visinia scored in the corner in the last move of the game.
Tries: Taylor 2, Veainu
Cons: Taylor 2
Pens: Taylor 3
Tries: Parkes, Visinia
Pens: Anscombe 2Teams:
15 Tom Taylor, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nasi Manu, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Kolio Hifo, 22 Stephen Gee.
15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Dave Thomas, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Nathan Hughes, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Wayne Ngaluafe, 21 Simon Hickey, 22 Lolagi Visinia.