Rugby: Canterbury starting to hit their straps

Robbie Fruean of Canterbury is tackled by Francis Saili of North Harbour during the round three ITM Cup match between Canterbury and North Harbour. Photo / Getty Images.
Robbie Fruean of Canterbury is tackled by Francis Saili of North Harbour during the round three ITM Cup match between Canterbury and North Harbour. Photo / Getty Images.

Canterbury 36
North Harbour 3

If there were any doubts about Canterbury after their surprise opening round defeat to Tasman, they have been quickly erased over the course of the last three days.

In that time the red-and-blacks have beaten both Auckland and North Harbour to surge up the Premiership table and they've done it on the back of a combined 69-14 scoreline.

They haven't always looked fluid but they shift the ball at a pace most sides struggle to contend with and have enough quality in their ranks to be able to execute that game plan.

It took some time to exert their dominance over North Harbour, going to the break with a 10-3 lead, but were completely dominant in the second spell as they changed the point of attack from one side to the next. They piled on four second-half tries to secure a bonus-point win and looked full of running at the end.

Canterbury actually looked a little tired in the first half, which was understandable given the short turnaround, and it allowed North Harbour to stay in the contest. The visitors still came under pressure, but their defence held well, and might have fancied their chances at halftime.

They chucked away, quite literally, a lot of that good work when Canterbury speedster Johnny McNicholl intercepted a Michael Hobbs pass early in the second spell and raced in under the posts.

At 17-3, Canterbury were never going to be overtaken and they extended their lead through tries to Nasi Manu, a second to McNicholl and Andy Ellis.

Harbour have shown glimpses of potential in their opening two games so far but they haven't been able to sustain it, although the Championship side were handed arguably the toughest draw of any ITM Cup side with their opening two matches against last year's Premiership finalists in Canterbury and Waikato.

Canterbury now enjoy a seven-day break before their next match against Wellington. Surely a rested side will mean an even more dangerous one.

Canterbury 36 (Johnny McNicholl 2, Robbie Fruean, Nasi Manu, Andy Ellis tries, Tom Taylor 4 cons, pen) North Harbour 3 (Bryn Hall pen). HT: 10-3.

- APNZ

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