North Harbour 18
This Christchurch crossover clash was the perfect antidote to a wrenching 40 hours for the code of rugby.
North Harbour gave their all in their second Ranfurly Shield clash of the season but ultimately had to bow to the best team in the Mitre 10 Cup and hot favourites to retain their Premiership crown. It was a worthy challenge, especially through the opening 50 minutes, but Canterbury called on all their clinical efficiency and class to prevail in the final quarter when Harbour's structure, decision-making and tackling fell away.
Canterbury retained the Kevin Gimblett Memorial Trophy and can tuck the Shield away for the summer. They have also sealed home advantage for the final, should they get that far.
Canterbury had willing pack workers in hooker Ben Funnell, lock Scott Barrett, No 8 Luke Whitelock and No 7 Jed Brown, while Harbour looked to No 8 Murphy Taramai and lock/skipper Chris Vui. Despite missing their two premier front-rowers in Nic Mayhew and James Parsons, the Harbour scrum stayed strong for much of the encounter.
Harbour dropped the ball just once in the entire first half, meaning they were able to build pressure and score two nice tries. They even led, briefly, after 42 minutes.
But Canterbury looked potent on attack, even against the competition's most parsimonious defence, and wing George Bridge's try was down to two sweet offloads by midfielders Jordie Barrett and Jack Goodhue. Tom Sanders scored off a rasping break by No 10 Richie Mo'unga, who later dotted down. Fullback Johnny McNicholl had his usual roving commission. As a team, they counter-cleaned out well.
Prior to the match, past Canterbury Shield and provincial legends were paraded. Fergie McCormick, who bled red and black over 18 seasons and 222 games, was centre stage. 'Ferg' would have approved at the win and the manner of the victory.
Canterbury's final game of the regular season will be next Saturday in Pukekohe against the Steelers, while Harbour have two games in four days, starting with Tasman in Albany on Wednesday night.
Canterbury 47 (Tom Sanders, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue, Richie Mo'unga, Nathan Vella, Jack Stratton tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, 3 pen, Mo'unga con)
North Harbour 18 (Matt Vaega, Sione Mafileo tries; Bryn Gatland con, 2 pen)