Christchurch City Council
Via Stuff - by Aaron Goile
Canterbury proved too strong for Waikato in their crucial second-round national premiership rugby league clash in Hamilton on Sunday.
The Bulls took out an entertaining contest 32-28 at FMG Stadium Waikato, to stay well in contention for the final in a fortnight's time.
Both teams had lost first-up so they went into this one desperate for victory, and while Waikato had their moments in front on the scoreboard, their error-rate eventually caught up with them, and they now need plenty of scenarios to fall their way if they are to make the decider, or even avoid the promotion-relegation clash.
The hosts enjoyed a quick start, opening the scoring in the fifth minute after captain Aaron Jolley continued on his marvellous form from last weekend.
The fullback went on an outstanding run from a quickly taken 20-metre tap, and from there the hosts forced a repeat set, then a penalty earned them more ball, which turned into points when halfback Te Puhi Rudolph spun his way over after Bulls prop Reuben Te Amo slapped the ball down from the pass of hooker Malcolme Noda.
Waikato enjoyed a good deal of possession and field position, but weren't able to make it count, with a rolling dead grubber from Jolley letting Canterbury off the hook. And the visitors immediately made good use of their reprieve, getting on the board in the 18th minute when second rower Joseph Mika delivered in a tackle what looked a perhaps forward, over-the-body pass, for winger Josh Aileone to dot down in the left corner.
Despite Rudolph producing a gutsy one-on-one strip on centre Blake Thompson near his tryline, it didn't stall Canterbury's momentum, as the visitors continued their roll-on upfield, with Waikato guilty of not getting off their line quickly.
Canterbury all of a sudden made it 14-6, with two tries in three minutes. First it was five-eighth Izic Placid giving a nice underhand offload for prop Willie Davis, who stormed his way over beside the posts, carrying a handful of defenders with him, then it was centre Blake Thompson with an easy finish out wide, after the ball was spread wide and an overlap developed.
In need of a hit-back, Waikato found one just before halftime, when prop Dana Ratu charged over, and that sent the home side to the sheds a bit happier, trailing 14-12.
But any momentum gleaned there was quickly extinguished two minutes into the second half, with Canterbury centre Vinnie Paul making a nice bust and offloading for winger Ben Ilalio to speed away, going all the way round under the bar.
Though just when they needed to get themselves back in the contest, Waikato did just that, and more, with a couple of bits of fortune favouring their cause.
Five-eighth Hayden Karena opted to send a flat cross-kick with plenty of men out right, and with a favourable bounce, winger Teina Ngahiwi was able to dot down just inside the dead-ball line, then in the 57th minute Waikato shot ahead 22-20 as Karena bombed, Sean Scott fumbled and Jolley swooped on the spoils.
However, their lead was to be brief, as Waikato were guilty of being a bit too exuberant with ball in hand, and when made to defend, Canterbury's power up the middle had them falling off several tackles.
The Bulls retook the lead just after the hour-mark when hooker Chase Kereama-Williams scooted over out of dummy half, then just three minutes later Aileone nabbed his double with a fine finish in the corner, on the back of a great run up the middle and offload from Kereama-Williams.
With a fine conversion from five-eighth Izic Placid, the 10-point lead was Canterbury's biggest of the game.
And it proved enough. Waikato had the chance to strike with four minutes left, but sloppy execution cost them, and when second rower Pawhare Brown followed through on a grubber to score on the siren, it was too little too late.
AT A GLANCE
Canterbury 32 (Josh Aileone 2, Willie Davis, Blake Thompson, Ben Ilalio, Chase Kereama-Williams tries; Sean Scott 2 goals, Tama Walker goal, Izic Placid goal) Waikato 28 (Te Puhi Rudolph, Dana Ratu, Teina Ngahiwi, Aaron Jolley, Pawhare Brown tries; Aaron Jolley 4 goals). HT: 14-12.