Canterbury won the Air New Zealand cup for the 5th time as they beat Wellington 28-20 in the New Zealand provincial rugby cup final at the AMI Stadium on Saturday.
Canterbury won the tournament for the second time in succession after building up a convincing 18-3 lead at the interval before Wellington came back to take the score to 25-20 with two minutes remaining.
The home side has depth in abundance as even without their star All Blacks, they were too strong for the Wellington side, who once again failed at the final hurdle. Theyve now reached six of the last seven finals, but lost them all.
It was all guns blazing after kickoff, as the opening few minutes flowed back and forth before fullback Colin Slade gassed wing David Smith to score a great opening try.
Slade, whos had a superb season, scored again later after a pinpoint Casey Laulala long pass allowed him to go in for his second. He was later sin-binned though for a professional foul, which allowed Wellington to get back into the match, scoring ten points while he was absent.
It was Laulalas last match for the Christchurch side, as he will now head over to the Cardiff Blues in Wales to ply his trade in the UK & Europe. Voted by his peers as the best defensive and attacking player in the Air New Zealand Cup recently, it will be a massive loss for the side, but a fantastic signing for the Blues.
Alapati Leuia scored Wellingtons first try, but wing Sean Maitland came back with a sensational solo effort, capping off his superb season on the wing.
Wellington built up momentum in the last ten minutes of the match, but a late penalty to Stephen Brett knocked the wind out their sails, and sealed the victory for the prolific Canterbury unit.
Coach Rob Penney is keen to stick around so they can go for the hat-trick of titles. He paid tribute to his players.
“The guys supported each other wonderfully. It is still a team orientated game and you can’t do it individually.
“The red-and-black theme is really about doing it for the team and the boys have bought into that time and time again and it’s won the day again,” he said.