North Canty all smiles after shield win

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The smile on the face of inspirational North Canterbury rugby captain ‘Nordy’ Anderson said it all.
It was as wide as the nearby Waimakariri River which geographically separates North Canterbury from its traditional foes Ellesmere and it symbolised exactly how much the 39-14 victory over Ellesmere meant to the North Canterbury players and the coaching staff Shane Fletcher, Nick Martin, Craig Mullan and Matt Newton.
The victory and the honour of taking home the Southbridge Shield was a decisive one, based on a whole-hearted effort by the North Canterbury forward pack and supplemented by a very proficient display by the backline.
With Anderson and Logan Telfer, two players who play nearly all their club rugby in the loose forward trio, locking the North Canterbury scrum, they were always going to be a mobile unit.
North Canterbury’s early territorial advantage was rewarded on the scoreboard when Lance Taylor’s accurate boot landed three penalties, but Ellesmere started to gain a lot more possession and closed the gap to 9-7 with a try to Mark Maitland.
A critical moment in the match came five minutes before half-time when Lance Taylor broke the Ellesmere defensive line and off-loaded to half-back Freeman Eder.
Aware of the speedster Pita Sekilagi on the right-hand touchline, Eder put in a deft kick which Sekilagi, who had gone close to scoring on two earlier occasions, gathered comfortably. Taylor’s conversion gave North Canterbury a deserved 16-7 lead at the break.
Soon after the resumption fullback Monty Maule, who has been in sublime goal-kicking form recently was given a longrange shot. Right on target, it landed on the cross-bar and limped over.
While Taylor had directed play well from first-five, North Canterbury lost nothing when Brook Retallick took over early in the second spell. He kicked two penalties as well as converting agood try scored by Chris Keane and North Canterbury established a convincing 32-7 lead going into the last ten minutes.
Ellesmere did manage to score another try which was converted, but the match ended appropriately with the outstanding Sekilagi running in his second try and Retallick completing an impressive goalkicking performance by all three kickers for North Canterbury by landing the easy conversion to make the final score North Canterbury 39 Ellesmere 14.
On Sunday Hurunui and Kaiapoi met at Culverden in the only Luisetti Seeds Division 1 match that needed to be played at the weekend.
With the exception of the scrum where it held the upper hand, Kaiapoi’s first-half performance could only be described as inept. A plethora of errors handed Hurunui a steady supply of ball and it made good use of it.
Digby Heard opened the scoring with a penalty for Hurunui before halfback Stu Brown, Hurunui’s player of the day, ran the blindside from a maul and gave fullback Brad Hazeldene a clear run to the tryline.
A few minutes later Hazeldene broke through Kaiapoi’s mid-field defence for a good try. Heard converted both tries, while Ethan Ashcroft kicked a penalty for Kaiapoi, as Hurunui led 17-3 at the break.
Another Heard penalty soon after the resumption stretched Hurunui’s lead, but with the injection of Chris Smith at No 8, Dante Love at five-eighth and Brennan Kara at lock (the latter two backing up from representative duty) Kaiapoi looked a different team.
Smith was the first to score and then when Love intercepted a stray pass to put Viliame Baravi over between the posts, the momentum was in Kaiapoi’s favour.
Now dominating all phases of possession and with Nacaneli Namata posing a constant threat, it appeared as though it was only a matter of time before Hurunui’s defence would crack.
What followed was the best rugby of the match. Kaiapoi minimised its errors and threw everything at Hurunui.
But Hurunui dug deep and showed plenty of heart. Whether it was the thought of the last minute loss against Ohoka the previous Saturday, or the injection of their regular captain ‘Nordy’ Anderson off the bench after his heroics the previous day, Hurunui managed to cling on for another significant victory 20-15.