Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Classic Canterbury-Wellington encounters

Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis (left) passes from the back of the scrum during the Shield match in 2005. Photo / Getty Images
Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis (left) passes from the back of the scrum during the Shield match in 2005. Photo / Getty Images

Wellington and Canterbury have provided some of the most heated games on the provincial rugby calendar. They will do battle again tomorrow as Canterbury look to claim their sixth-consecutive national provincial championship in Wellington. Daniel Richardson looks back at some classic matches between the two this century.

2000

Wellington 34 Canterbury 29
Jade Stadium, Christchurch
NPC Final

This game marks the last time Wellington won the NPC. A double to wing Jonah Lomu plus tries to Jason O'Halloran and Inoke Afeaki laid the platform but the real talking point came from hooker Norm Hewitt. The All Blacks rake admitted he played on through part of the game with a broken arm, a move both lauded and criticised. An estimated 75,000 turned out for Wellington's victory parade down Lambton Quay.

2001

Canterbury 31 Wellington 29
Jade Stadium, Christchurch
Ranfurly Shield challenge

Referee Steve Walsh ensured he would forever remain a man who sparks rage within Wellington rugby circles following his controversial display with the whistle during this classic. Wellington shot out to an early lead through two tries to Samoan wing Lome Fa'atau, who may have been the fastest man in rugby in the early 2000s outside of Rupeni Caucaunibuca. Canterbury ground their way back into the contest and when Ben Blair crossed in the dying stages to make it 29-29 to ensure the Shield would be safe with a draw, Wellington's hearts were broken. With time up Blair added the tricky conversion for good measure and Wellington were left to wonder how they blew a 29-12 lead.

2003

Canterbury 38 Wellington 38
Jade Stadium, Christchurch Shield challenge

With 15 minutes to go, Wellington were down 35-10. Sireli Bobo, Thomas Waldrom, Neemia Tialata and Conrad Smith all scored tries for Wellington during a crazy ending but it was Cameron McIntyre's seventh penalty of the afternoon, in the middle of Wellington's try-scoring spree, which proved crucial. A 20-year-old Piri Weepu nailed four late conversions from the bench as the Lions roared but McIntyre's 72nd minute penalty ensured Canterbury kept the Shield.

2005

Canterbury 15 Wellington 14
Jade Stadium, Christchurch
Shield challenge

You can see by now that games between Wellington and Canterbury tend to end in heartbreak for the Wellingtonians, particularly when the Shield is on the line. Five penalties from that man Blair were enough to seal this one for Canterbury after Wellington held an 11-6 lead at the split. Fa'atau scored the only try of the game in a contest that bore certain similarities to Wellington's failed challenge in 2001. This loss also cost Wellington a semifinal spot in the old first division.

2008

Canterbury 7 Wellington 6
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
NPC Final

Hayden Hopgood won't ever be inducted to the Canterbury Rugby Football Union's hypothetical hall of fame but it was his try that started something in 2008. A first-half score led Canterbury to their win over Wellington in the NPC final in 2008, which began their historic run of five crowns on the trot. Canterbury's starting loose trio that night was Kieran Read, Richie McCaw and Hopgood - pick the odd one out?

- NZ Herald

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