It’s official. Canterbury reigns supreme in New Zealand rugby after their provincial footballers added the national provincial crown to the Super 14 one they won earlier in the year.
Canterbury’s 7-6 victory over Wellington in a tense, but error-strewn final continued the Lions run of near misses in the national provincial championship and gave the Red ‘n’ Blacks their first title since 2004.
It was Canterbury’s sixth national provincial crown all told and was won on the back of some outstanding defence in wet and slippery conditions at the capital’s Westpac Stadium.
The victory sends off departing Cantabs Greg Somerville, Scott Hamilton, try-scorer Hayden Hopgood and Paul Williams in style, and shows once again that these guys – whether in the guise of the Crusaders or their provincial offshoot – know how to close out the big ones.
The same certainly can’t be said of Wellington who have now lost five of the last six national provincial finals and have a record of one win from eight appearances in the showpiece matches over the last decade or so.
So yet another bridesmaid’s effort by the Ranfurly Shield holders would have disappointed the crowd of 22,500, and rightfully so as the Lions had enough opportunities to grab a rare final victory. In the second half the home side repeatedly worked into handy positions, but were guilty of being too loose in the tricky conditions.
Gee it was a real old-fashioned final too, with neither side able to break into the free-flowing rugby that had got them on to the big stage.