So what a difference a year makes. I didn't really think that the style of game would be repeated. And though it wasn't, the dominance continued.
With two tries against them, the Naki forwards weren't looking dispondent, they were looking hard done by. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think they were not happy with some of the refereeing.
Sure Big Col had already pinged them 3 times for ruck and maul offences, but I don't remember any of them being dubious decisions.
Maybe they weren't happy with the way the scrums were being set. Mr. Hawke called for 10 resets in the first 25 minutes! He had a strange way of going about it, getting the players to crouch and hoooooolllllddd!
I can see his point - he was trying to make the contact safer and fairer, by reducing the impact of the first hit. This is also a real bonus for a superior front row, as it promotes technique and ability, over weight and the drive from the rest of the scrum.
It appeared to play right into the hands of Canterbury! In the second half it was the only major area that we were winning with ease.
My only question about Colin Hawke is "Where the red face paint beside his right ear came from?" (Shown as he started the second half!) Not a good look for an impartial official!
But in the end Mr Hawke had faded into the back ground, popping up on occasion to put the game out of it's misery - which he was required to do quite a bit in the 2nd half.
But what about that game: Mehrts running was constructive and disruptive at the same time. It made the Naki's inside backs and loosies look (what's a nice way to say useless?) ineffective.
MacDonald looked like he wanted to make up for his injury break, by impressing the AB selectors (whoever they may be at the moment) that he was "back for Black!"
Caleb Ralph was enjoying his move back to centre so much that he was handing out try opportunities like he was running a lolly scramble.
Not that Nathan Mauger was missing any opportunities at 2nd 5. His brother Aaron must be wondering what he has to do to get back into the starting lineup!
If it wasn't for the fact he was playing for Canterbury I would say that Nathan Mauger was just plain greedy scoring 4 tries in 38 minutes. But hey! a bonus point before half time is not to be sneased at!
But it couldn't last. The botching of perfect opportunites that had plagued the Naki in the first half rubbed off on the R&Bs. That and the fact that the Naki started to play better. They lifted their D superbly, and when the backs started to do silly things again the forwards simply rumbled the ball up themselves.
There was a period of play that went from Canty hard on attack, to a try to Taranaki that was the highlight of the 2nd half. It was a continuous period of about 4 to 5 minutes, and included at least 1, possibly more turn-overs. It was the first time that the Naki had looked capable of really footing it with Canterbury since the start of the game.
To put it bluntly (why stop now?) most of the game Taranaki looked like a team with a useful pack, and a superb fullback. Lilley had a standout game, but soon knew how likely he was going to be able to beat Canterbury single handed.
Lastly I don't think I have seen so many botched opportunities in one game. And what did Hansen/McLean achieve in bringing on Vunibaka, except to humiliate him yet again. Its not really fair on the guy - and it isn't fair on the team (or us). If Marika can't even work out when to run hard and straight with the ball, what bloody use is he?
Great result from a interesting if somewhat strange game!
Bring on Auckland!!!!!