Bay of Plenty 18
There we were, marvelling at such confusion, and suddenly a quick blast of outstanding rugby broke out.
Unfortunately for Bay of Plenty, it was a lopsided deal as the perennial ITM Cup champions Canterbury found top gear late in the first half at Rotorua's International Stadium. From that point, they charged to an impressive 48-18 win.
The first half hour was enough to make an IRB scrum expert crouch in despair or engage with a taxi. Penalties clogged the air. The passes from Bay captain Willie Ripia looked like something you might see wobbling off a low diving board. Things were not going well.
Bay of Plenty were the first to shake off these blues but Canterbury wing Patrick Osborne made a fabulous, muscular save on his goal line after a fine drive from Bay forward Joe Tupe.
Canterbury looked like they might be first to crack when they botched the reception of a penalty behind their own line. But Bay of Plenty got the jitters on attack, and that was the signal for the big red machine to strike even though they were down a man, No.
8 Jordan Taufua having been sinbinned for a team ruck foul.
Tyler Bleyendaal strolled through gaps, Andy Ellis brought his craft to bear, and Milford Keresoma finished off an excellent team try. The video referee Phill Barnett deserves an honourable mention here, for not ruling out the Keresoma score for an irrelevant Canterbury obstruction. From a neutral point of view, the game in front of a 5000 crowd desperately needed this break.
What had been an even contest suddenly became a Canterbury benefit, as they swatted off poor tackling to send Ryan Crotty over the line for a 20-6 advantage at halftime.
The short passes flowed for an excellent Canterbury try after halftime and Bay of Plenty were almost sunk. They still had enough energy to raise a hand above the waves, but not for long. They created one of the finest sets of non tackles in ITM Cup history, against the Canterbury half back Willie Heinz. Those scrums also remained a problem. One would hate to encourage another IRB foray into their rule book, but optimism for the new rules is fading.
Canterbury 48 (Milford Keresoma 2, George Whitelock 2, Ryan Crotty, Rob Thompson tries; Tyler Bleyendaal 5 con, 2 pen, Richie Mo'unga con), Bay of Plenty 18 (Kenny Lynn, Carl Axtens try, Willie Ripia con, 2 pen).
Halftime: 20 - 6.