North Canterbury Rugby Sub Union
, Rugby Administrator-Secretary
Town v Country Seniors preview - Southbrook Park August 30 - kick off 3pm
The makeup of the two teams is vastly different to days gone by but for the 2014 Country players the significance of the Craw Shield has not diminished in any way. In the ‘good old days’ the Canterbury players and All Blacks were spread between the two teams, and often any new selections came about through a special performance in the annual clash. Crowds flocked to see what was invariably a close contest, and the event was a Canterbury rugby highlight. These days any Canterbury or All Black players appearing in the match will be wearing Metro colours, as Metro fixtures also serve to provide the opportunity to keep those players match fit. When Sonny Bill Williams made his move to New Zealand rugby his first Canterbury appearance was in a Craw Shield game, and alongside him that night were Patrick Osborne and a number of other ITM Cup squad members. The odds were always heavily against that Country side but they performed well and enjoyed having the opportunity to compete against players of that calibre. Reputations haven’t been discussed in the Country changing room at training this week. This team is full of genuine Country rugby players who are extremely aware and proud of the deeds of their predecessors and determined to uphold the standards they set in the past. It’s not very often these days that the match is played at a Country venue, so this year it takes on an added significance. Irrespective of the outcome of their SI Invitational games it is their passion for Country rugby, and their fear of letting some great past-players down that makes the Craw Shield the trophy these players most want to have in their cabinet at season’s end. MESSAGE FROM THE TEAM MANAGEMENT Great Country ex-player Neil Cornelius says some of his finest rugby memories occurred in Country vs. Town matches, in his time played on Lancaster Park on Queen’s Birthday Weekend. ‘I played for Country throughout the 1960s and we managed to beat Town in 1962, which was the first time we had done that since 1948. We were naturally very excited to do that’. Neil, one of the great men of Canterbury rugby and in recent years of the Cantabrians club, says in his time the Craw Shield match was essentially a Canterbury trial. ‘The game certainly gave Country players the opportunity to stake their claim for Canterbury selection, whether in the seniors or the other provincial sides’. Neil says that the Country sides in the 1960s were essentially made up of men who worked with their hands: ‘Farmers, sons of farmers, and other rural-type workers. In other words, tough men. Obviously we had plenty of All Blacks in our sides. It was a time when Canterbury and New Zealand players would turn-out for either Country or Town. It made for excellent, albeit often tight, encounters’. When pushed as to who the best player whom he played with and against in Craw Shield matches Neil plumps for Town’s Fergi McCormick. ‘If you wanted to beat Town as a Country player you really had to beat Fergi and that was never easy of course’. Neil recalls many of the humorous incidents before, during or after Craw Shield matches. ‘I recall that (All Black captain) John Graham was the Town captain I think in 1962. After we beat them 6-3 John said that it was never much fun playing Country at the best of times, especially on wet days like that’. Neil says the spirit within sides in his day was pretty special. ‘Our 1962 team had a reunion a while back and it was wonderful to see everyone and to relive some terrific memories. We all went up to Glenmark to see that season’s Craw Shield match’. Having represented Country out of the Amberley club for his entire career, Neil says that while the prominence of the Craw Shield match may not have been as great in recent years, the game remains one of the annual highlights within Canterbury rugby. By Todd R. Nicholls
ASHLEY REIGN SUPREME
By Peter Williams
The blue and green balloons along the roadside marking the way to the Loburn Domain last Saturday set the scene for an outstanding day of rugby. An overnight storm which had threatened to put a damper on proceedings had blown through leaving the nine Finals to be played on well presented fields under clear blue skies. Conditions for rugby were perfect with a large crowd in attendance – the biggest for many years.
And it was the home Club, Ashley, that put the seal on the day with a commanding performance in the Luisetti Seeds Division 1 Grand Final, running out convincing winners over perennial finalists, Glenmark, 32-7, to claim the Alf Hunnibel Memorial Trophy.
From the time fullback Toby Ashby dotted down in the first few minutes, Ashley’s lead was never seriously threatened. A try to Glenmark’s half-back, JeremyTaylor midway through the first half did close the gap to 13-7 but then Ashley’s position was consolidated by a timely display of accurate goal-king by winger, Dan Cook, whose boot contributed 17 points to the Ashley cause.
By half-time the margin had been stretched to 19-7 and despite the wholehearted efforts by players like Ryan Nesbit in the forwards and Tim Loughnan at second five, there was nothing that Glenmark could do to stem the tide.
Soon after the resumption, Ashley first-five David Woods, who had controlled play well, ran strongly and fed the ball to captain Jamie Young to score but for most of the large contingent of local supporters on hand, it was Ashley’s third and final try that will live in the memory.
Club stalwart, Andrew Dunbar, who is in his 17th season playing for the Club, embarked on one of his trademark barnstorming runs. Once his progress was blocked he looked for supporting runners and found 47-year-old, Dehman Eastmond, another club stalwart who had just come on as a late replacement at lock. When the substitution was made Eastmond received a generous round of applause from the crowd – but they simply erupted when he scored a try with his first touch of the ball. This was the stuff of fairy-tales!
The Ashley coaches, John Blackadder and Murray Cameron were delighted with the way the whole team lifted their game for the Grand Final. Ethan Cameron at second-five was the rock around which their defensive structures were built while in the forwards, No 8 Matt King was once again a colossus and was a deserved winner of the Waimak Real Estate Player of the Day award.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. DIVISION 2: Hurunui 21 (Sam Brons, Brian Anderson, tries, Jack Phillips 1 conversion, 3 penalties) beat Woodend 6 (Logan Smith 2 penalties)
Hurunui took out the Division 2 title for the fourth consecutive season – for three of the four years, Woodend has been the beaten finalist. Two early penalties gave Hurunui the upper hand and they never relinquished it, proving too strong for Woodend, especially in the forwards. With four Senior rep players, Brian Anderson, Ben Frame, Dave Kenny and Cale Dobby in the Hurunui pack, it was always going to be a big ask for Woodend, and the challenge proved to be beyond them.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. DIVISION 2 RESERVE: Saracens 19 (Joe Andrews try, Gary Sheehan 1 conversion, 3 penalties, 1 dropped goal) beat Glenmark-Cheviot 16 (Tom Queen, Craig Tomlinson tries, Sam Sidey 2 penalties)
This match was close throughout. A younger, but less experienced Glenmark-Cheviot side was pitted against a highly-motivated Saracens outfit. Glenmark-Cheviot had scored two tries to one and with time running out they led by 16-13 when Saracens half-back, playmaker and vice captain, Gary Sheehan attempted an ambitious long-range dropped goal. He struck it well but the ball landed on the cross-bar and limped over to draw the scores level. It appeared as though for the second year in a row that Saracens were going to participate in a drawn Grand Final but Saracens swarmed back onto attack, they were awarded a penalty in a handy position and the man-of-the-hour, Sheehan, stepped up and landed the winning goal.
CANTERBURY METROPOLITAN COLTS: Christchurch 18, Glenmark 17
Having been the top qualifier in a competitive competition, Glenmark earned the right to host the Final and accepted the North Canterbury Board’s invitation to play the match as part of North Canterbury’s Finals Day.
This was another cliffhanger. Christchurch had their noses in front for most of the game and with only a few minutes to go they stretched out to an 18-10 lead. Glenmark stormed back with a converted try to close the margin to just one point but the final whistle came too soon for the Glenmark team.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. UNDER 18: Hurunui 15 (Matt Hickey 2 tries, 1 conversion, 1 penalty) Rangiora High School 5 (Jack Howe try).
Hurunui came out very determined after last week’s loss to the same opponent. Their forwards proved the difference being too strong and powerful for the school combination. Captain, and second five-eighth, Matt Hickey led from the front for Hurunui and scored all 15 points to secure victory for his team. Hurunui’s victory gained them the Leicester Ashworth Memorial Trophy to add to their Combined Competition victory earlier in the season.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. UNDER 16: Kaiapoi 43 (Paris Kara (2), Dante Rolleston, Josh Merrin, Jacob Hurring, Dante Love, Logan Allison tries, Taine Jacobs-Lawson 4 conversions) Ashley 5 (Gianni Bertacco try)
Ashley played very well for the first quarter of the match and held the talented Kaiapoi team at bay. Kaiapoi’s skill level and the all-round depth of the team eventually showed through though. By half-time they had stretched their lead to 21-5 with three converted tries and a further four tries were added in the second half. The fact that three of these four second-half tries were scored by players coming off the bench serves to highlight the overall strength of the squad. Kaiapoi’s victory meant that they, too, added the North Canterbury title to the Combined competition title they won earlier in the season.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. UNDER 14½: Saracens 67(Caleb Rust (4), Luke Campbell, Ben McCaw, Zane Carter, Ihaka Abraham, Joseph Sainsbury, Anthony Cleeve, Chris Conti tries, Ashley 15 (Josh Duckworth 2, Braxton Taua tries).
With a McCaw and a Carter among the try-scorers, Ashley probably felt at times as though they were playing the All Blacks! Certainly, Saracens showed themselves to be a particularly well-drilled side who showcased their undoubted talents to the full by scoring a number of well-constructed team tries.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. UNDER 13: Ohoka 31 (Sam Atkinson, Quentin Monaghan, Jaiden Fraser (2) Sam Jenkins tries, Taylor Willis 3 conversions) Ashley Green 22 (Joshua Neilson, Tsubasa Webb, Callan Smith tries, Justin Evans 1 conversion.
This was an exciting match. In the first half, Ohoka scored two long-range individual tries whereas Ashley Green, with first-five Justin Evans controlling play expertly, showed superior teamwork and scored three tries to lead at the break by 17-12. Ohoka got their game together in the second half but it was not until very late in the match that they asserted any degree of superiority. Both teams had every right to feel very proud of their efforts.
MIKE GREER HOMES N.C. UNDER 11½: Hurunui 43 (Jed McDonald (3) Isaac Francis (2), William Anderson, Johnny Charlwood tries, Anderson 4 conversions) Amberley 12 (Walter Brown 2 tries, Jake Harvey 1 conversion.)
Hurunui were quickly out of the blocks and never really gave Amberley much of a look-in. Prop Troy James was a powerhouse in the Hurunui front row, and helped to give a steady supply of good ball to their backs. This allowed players like Jed McDonald to show his skills. Amberley tried hard but Hurunui came away deserved winners.
ASHLEY AND GLENMARK TO MEET IN GRAND FINAL
By Peter Williams
Ashley will be testing new waters when they meet Glenmark on Saturday in the Grand Final of the Luisetti Seeds North Canterbury senior rugby competition.
While Glenmark are the playing through Champions and have contested 11 of the 14 Grand Finals this millennium, Ashley will be making their first appearance on the big stage since 1995.
A feature of the semi-finals played last Saturday was the fact that they were played in unseasonably warm conditions and players had a strong nor’west wind to contend with. This was particularly the case at Loburn where Saracens had thadvantage of the wind in the first half. Midway through the first spell Saracens fist five Ricky Allin was able to kick two penalty goals from handy positions. Saracens’ slender advantage was conceded when Ashley’s right wing Andrew Dunbar scored wide out. Saracens’ flanker Josh Maynard crossed the line late in the half but was called back for a knock on, leaving the half time score Saracens 6 Ashley 5. Considering how strong the wind was this advantage to Saracens was never going to be enough.
Ashley were able to dominate territory in the second half. Saracens defended well but midway through the half Ashley kicked a penalty goal to take the lead by 8 points to 6. With about 10 minutes to go Ashley’s centre, Adrea Masara, latched onto a loose pass by Saracens to sprint away and score, leaving the final score Ashley 13 Saracens 6.
Matt King, Ashley’s No 8. won the Waimak Real Estate player of the day award with yet another committed performance while for Saracens, the Welsh duo, prop Morgan Pugh and fullback James Peploe-Williams had excellent matches.
The wind was less of a feature at Kaiapoi. While gusty at times it tended to blow across the field. These two teams had met the previous week at Omihi where Kaiapoi had dominated but last Saturday, it was quite a different Glenmark side, with some changes in personnel but a massive mind-shift with regards to their attitude and approach to the game.
This was apparent from the kickoff. The previous week Kaiapoi had scored two tries in the first ten minutes but last Saturday it was Glenmark who dominated the early exchanges. After 8 minutes they opted for a scrum rather than kicking for goal and were rewarded when half-back Jeremy Taylor scuttled through a yawning gap in Kaiapoi’s defence to score. Hooker, Jade Britian converted.
Kaiapoi responded with a penalty to Tauia MacDonald but not withstanding a positive attacking attitude from both teams, it was late in the half before Glenmark found another gap in Kaiapoi’s defence and five-eighth Jamie Fletcher scored under the black dot. Britian’s conversion gave Glenmark a thoroughly deserved half-time lead of 14-3.
But whereas Glenmark had looked clearly superior in the first-half, Kaiapoi quickly showed they could not be counted out. After just four minutes, the hard-working Daniel Tavendale was rewarded with a good try, which McDonald converted. Midway through the half it was McDonald again who injected himself into the backline and delighted the home crowd with a good try in the left hand corner to give Kaiapoi a one-point lead.
Now it was Glenmark’s turn to chase the game and they responded in kind. With only about five minutes remaining, replacement Justin Thomson used his bulk and experience to bullock his way over from an attacking scrum and Fletcher’s invaluable conversion took Glenmark out to a 6 point advantage.
Kaiapoi threw everything into their last minute assault. Half back Sam Harris put a clever kick in behind the Glenmark backs and when they failed to gather the ball, lock Jason Newton was on hand to score in the corner. So the game rested on McDonald’s sideline conversion attempt. He struck it sweetly but it drifted just wide and it was the visitors who were celebrating when referee Steven Laird, who controlled the match admirably, blew the final whistle.
Ashley and Glenmark have only met once this season - on the very first Saturday back in March - when Ashley won 27-12 but the team dynamics will have changed a lot since then so that should not be taken as a reliable yardstick. Ashley will have some advantage in terms of playing the match on their home ground but to counter-balance that is Glenmark’s Grand Final experience and incomparable record in big matches over the last two decades. It is a mouth-watering prospect. The Final kicks off at Loburn at 3 pm on Saturday.
FROM THE SIDELINES: GRAND FINALS DAY PREVIEW:
There is a wide spread of clubs represented in this Saturdays Grand Finals. Ashley will be represented in 4 Finals, Glenmark-Cheviot and Hurunui in 3, Saracens in 2 and Amberley, Kaiapoi, Ohoka, Rangiora High School and Woodend in one grade each.
Two non-Division Clubs, Hurunui and Woodend have qualified for the Division 2 Final which will be played as the curtain-raiser at Loburn on Saturday. Hurunui have won the Grand Final for each of the last three seasons, and despite Woodend having had their measure in two of their earlier three meetings this season, Hurunui will lift themselves for the Final. My pick: Hurunui to beat Woodend.
Third-ranked Saracens upset Ohoka in one of the Division 2 Reserve semi-Finals and will meet top-ranked Glenmark-Cheviot. This one, too, could go either way. My pick: Glenmark-Cheviot to beat Saracens
With Glenmark-Cheviot having earned home advantage in the Metro Colts competition, they have taken up the Board’s offer to be part of North Canterbury’s Finals Day. Their opponents will be Christchurch
Last Saturday, Hurunui Under 18s tasted defeat for the first time in the last two seasons when beaten by the Rangiora High School 2nd XV. They will be smarting from that result. My pick: Hurunui to beat Rangiora High School.
Kaiapoi have proven themselves by far the strongest team in the Under 16 grade. It would be a major surprise if they were beaten. My pick: Kaiapoi to beat Ashley
Saracens only loss in the Under 14½ grade this season was to their Grand Final opponent, Ashley, but they have also beaten them twice. My pick: Saracens to beat Ashley
Apart from one inexplicable lapse against a much more lowly-ranked opponent in Amberley, Ohoka have reigned supreme in the Under 13 grade. Ashley Green have also had an excellent season. Their only two losses have been to Ohoka. My pick: Ohoka to beat Ashley Green.
The Northerners, Hurunui and Amberley, have emerged as the Finalists after a very even competition. This one could go either way, although Hurunui have had the wood on their opponents in their two meetings earlier in the season. Amberley, though, showed they are hitting form at the right time when they thrashed Challenge Shield holders, Kaiapoi, last Saturday after Kaiapoi had inflicted a defeat on Hurunui two weeks earlier. . My pick: Hurunui to beat Amberley
Ross Dixon's contact details are as follows:
Address: 18 Green Street, Rangiora, 7400