As expected, the Cantabs after the lesson that brave Northland showed them the week previous, lifted there game significantly against the Otagoites in the local derby on Saturday night.
The future of Canterbury rugby looks secure. I thought Aaron Mauger, Ben Blair & Chris Jack where OUTSTANDING. Mauger has a prodigious punt & exciting acceleration, Blair has that Christian Cullen/Jeff Wilson look about him...god he's got some toe!!! Chris Jack was outstanding at lock....its easy to see why all 3 of these players starred for the NZ Colts this year. Brilliant stuff!!
I also thought James Kerr looked to have the goods at centre. For a winger he has got good distribution skills. Didn't seem to have bad defense either. Another option for the Cantabs. Lilley had another hot & cold game. Bit of an enigma that boy!
Of the forwards Toddy yet again proved what a champion he is. Change of position again back to the blindside flanker role & plays like he's been there all season. Brilliant!. The scrum looked adequate, although Otago did have us going backwards slightly on a number of occasions. Angus had a stormer!!! Boy are we gonna miss him when he goes...intersting how the flanker role seems to be more & more becoming closely associated with the 2nd five/centre role in the backline. It wouldn't surprise me soon to see players who are more versatile & be able to play both positions interchangeably (a la Rugby League).
Just a small note on the forgotten man in Canterbury rugby...Mal Arnold! Struggling along in the Canterbury B team...here's a man who was first choice 1st five for the Hurricanes in the S12!!! With Mauger looking so promising as a reserve for Merhts, and MacDonald also being an option in that position, perhaps Mal should look to move provinces. He's obviously got the goods.
For Otago it was a bit of a struggle. For a province as small as Otago to have 9 All Blacks is a stunning achievement. Unfortunately that means that the depth that a Canterbury or an Auckland can possess just can't be there through simple lack of numbers. They might struggle to make the semi's now, but the people should be proud of the number of All Blacks the province can boast.
Matt Carrington does not look like a pivot a team can play around in my honest opinion. Sure he's getting poor service from his halfbacks, but some of his option taking is abysmal. The Otago forwards however are competing well. Chainsaw Laney reminds me of Lilley a little...brillaint one second, ordinary the next.
Anyway, the Cantabs take on Wellington at Jade Stadium this weekend...could be a toughie against a team on the rise.