Bay of Plenty 22
Canterbury continued their quest for yet another provincial title, crushing Bay of Plenty 63-22 in Christchurch today to clinch top spot in the ITM Cup.
Coming into the clash, Canterbury knew a four-try win would be enough to seal their standing and, after an cagey first half, that conclusion was all but guaranteed in an explosive start to the second spell.
The red and blacks drew level with earlier winners Wellington on 39 points, but Canterbury's superior points differential ensured they edged the Lions for first.
Canterbury will now host Taranaki in next weekend's semifinals, while Wellington will welcome Auckland to the Cake Tin.
Those match-ups didn't always seem certain at Addington today, with the home side holding a tight 16-8 lead at the break. But an attacking assault after halftime blew away Bay of Plenty and, in the end, the competition's top side were running in tries for fun.
Canterbury showed no mercy to their over-matched foes, eventually compiling eight tries as a close contest turned into a rout.
In hindsight, Canterbury's early play was a sign of things to come. At one stage, the home side looked like they might get their bonus point in a hurry, but they managed only one try in the opening half.
It was hardly a fair reflection of their dominance, with two potential scores being pulled back because of forward passes in the build-up.
Canterbury finally did manage to cross after 20 minutes when their superior scrum forced a tighthead deep in Bay of Plenty territory and Ryan Crotty released Robbie Fruean in the corner.
Two Tom Taylor penalties increased Canterbury's lead to 10, but a mistake from the kickoff allowed the Steamers back into the contest when Leon Power burrowed over to halve the deficit.
Taylor's third penalty of the half right before the whistle increased his side's lead to 16-8, but it was tries not three-pointers Canterbury needed.
Those tries finally arrived and, after just 15 minutes in the second spell, Canterbury had their bonus point and were well on the way to a win.
First Johnny McNicholl crossed in their corner after a nice cut-out pass from Tyler Bleyendaal, then George Whitelock finished a flowing move that began inside his team's half, before Joe Moody secured the required point.
Bay of Plenty showed late signs of life, though their tries only appeared to anger their hosts. Maru Henry and Tristan Moran crossed for some consolation, but Telusa Veainu, Whitelock, Fruean and Crotty ensured a mammoth winning margin.
The only consolation for Bay of Plenty? They finished safe in sixth and will remain in the Premiership next season.
Canterbury 63 (Fruean 2, McNicholl, Whitelock 2, Moody, Veainu, Crotty tries; Taylor 3 pens, 5 cons, Bleyendaal 2 cons)
Bay of Plenty 22 (Power, Henry, Moran tries; McCashin pen, 2 cons)
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