Canterbury 44 Hawkes Bay 3
Canterbury overcame a rugged start against Hawkes Bay in Napier tonight to earn a bonus point victory and put themselves in an excellent position to secure a home semifinal.
The red and blacks scored six tries and join Wellington at the top of the table with one match to play _ Bay of Plenty in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.
The Bay's season is heading in the other direction, but they still have plenty to play for.
Rooted to the bottom of the table, they are facing relegation to the Championship but could earn themselves glory on Saturday if they take the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato in Hamilton.
The Bay will be hoping to get something from the game and that Canterbury continue their good recent form by dismantling their relegation rivals Bay of Plenty.
Hawkes Bay often cause Canterbury problems at McLean Park and so it proved again, at least in the first quarter of the match.
Canterbury struggled to find their rhythm in the face of the home side's aggression and conceded a penalty to Andrew Horrell but clawed their way back through two Tom Taylor penalties and then cut simply cut loose.
With the pack beginning to dominate and inside backs Tyler Bleyendaal and Tom Taylor showing their class, Canterbury scored three tries through George Whitelock _ thanks to a poor Hawkes Bay defensive lineout _ Codie Taylor and Johnny McNicholl, the last two coming from fine finishes from a hooker and wing respectively.
Hawkes Bay had their opportunities in the first half but failed to capitalise and the big question was how they would respond after the break with the score 25-3.
Unfortunately for them they couldn't strike back and Nasi Manu scored Canterbury's bonus point try 10 minutes into the second half.
Bay captain Karl Lowe and replacement hooker Hika Elliot tried but couldn't halt Canterbury's momentum. A driving maul set up a late try for flanker Luke Whitelock and openside Matt Todd scored another on full-time. They put a seal on a victory which sets Canterbury up for their fifth championship in a row.
Canterbury 37 (George Whitelock, Codie Taylor, Johnny McNicholl, Nasi Manu, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd tries; Tom Taylor 4 cons, 2 pens).
Hawkes Bay 3 (Andrew Horrell pen).
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