Canterbury dig deep for NPC victory

The Canterbury Cobras have taken out the 2014 AFL New Zealand NPC, putting in gutsy performances against quality opposition.

In wet, slippery conditions, the Cobras played smart football, keeping the ball under control superbly.

The day began with the Auckland Buccaneers taking on the Otago Riot. Kicking into the wind, Auckland built up a narrow lead at quarter time, and crucially kept Otago scoreless. Thomas Taungakava set up coach Chris Mundell for the first goal through marking and handballing on to his University Blues teammate. Otago maintained early pressure against their highly regarded opposition, with William Dickenson leading the way.

Auckland pushed on in the 2nd quarter, building their lead through Sam McKenzie and Brad Wade. A large number of behinds for the quarter kept the score ticking over, but was also the result of Otago’s hard work defending their goal.

ml0701_1_1124The third quarter saw the Riot play some of the best football seen all weekend, led by standout Dan Benny and playing with tenacity and intensity. Their first goal of the tournament came through a long shot from Sam Shearer, delighting his teammates. Auckland were held to a point, and going into the final quarter the lead was only 15 points.

However, that was as good as it got for the Riot, with Auckland reasserting control with an onslaught of attacks on goal. Steph Tabaillou and Taungavaka put goals through to seal the win.

Auckland: 1.2, 3.8, 3.9, 6.12 (48) (Taungavaka 2, McKenzie, Mundell, Wade, Tabaillou

Otago: 0.0, 0.0, 1.2, 1.3 (9) (Shearer)

The next match was between two teams who both came into the tournament with a point to prove. In a fiery contest, Canterbury downed Wellington by a slim margin, grinding out the win after leading into the final quarter.

Richie Heazlewood, Stephen van Gruting and Todd Andrews showed their class during the performance, which began with two goals to van Gruting. Wellington hit back hard in the 2nd, with goals coming to Ryan Roselli and Ryan McLean, with McLean’s coming off the end of a storming run. A goal to Brad Mavor kept the Cobras just out of reach at half time.

The third quarter saw Canterbury pound away at the Wellington goal, without much scoring success. However, they did succeed in playing the game at the right end of the field, with Levi Inglis scoring the solitary goal.

With a big lead to defend, but the wind favouring Wellington, Canterbury slowed the game down through excellent defensive play. Jared Court was a rock of stability, taking sensible options and keeping his team calm. Stan Chung scored for Wellington, but in the end the deficit was too much for the Tigers to overturn.

Wellington: 0.0, 2.2, 2.2, 3.4(22) Roselli, Chung, McLean

Canterbury: 2.5, 3.5, 4.10, 4.10(34) van Gruting 2, Mavor, L Inglis

Next up Otago took on the hosts, with both teams eager to score their first win of the competition. The match had a fast start, with both teams getting on the scoresheet early. Lachlan Eade scored for the Riot into the wind to thunderous applause from the Otago bench. However, Wellington were extremely slick early, with Hayden Mourits and Stan Chung the standouts in a team playing with flair. Goals in the first quarter went to Mourits, Jared Burns and the young Nathan Lenihan, who took a tremendous mark off a long Ryan McLean kick into the circle.

Otago made all of the play in the 2nd quarter, with Dan Benny and Logan Toomer leading an enthusiastic team effort from the front, kicking goals to bring the score to within 4 points at half time. Otago also excelled on defense, keeping Wellington scoreless over the period.

Once again though, Wellington pushed back into the lead, with their young guns coming to the fore. Rhylee Ioane-Fidow was impressive, composed and calm, and Alex Awatere more than held his own against bigger and stronger opponents. The performance overall of Wellington’s young players was one of the highlights of the tournament, with the wise selection of High Performance players paying off for the Tigers. Ioane-Fidow scored in the quarter, and James Terry also got on the scoresheet, after working hard all match.

The 4th quarter saw Wellington complete their rout, with another three goals coming through Alex Awatere, Nathan Lenihan and Ryan Roselli. The final score was an impressive margin of victory for the Tigers, but they were made to work very hard for it by a determined Otago Riot, who showed massive improvement over the tournament.

Wellington: 3.5, 3.5, 5.9, 8.11: (59) Mourits 2, Lenihan 2, Awatere, Terry, Burns, Roselli

Otago: 1.0, 3.1, 3.1, 3.2 (20) Benny, Toomer, Eade

The results meant the 6th match of the tournament was effectively a Grand Final. Canterbury stormed out of the blocks, playing at a blistering pace and racking up goals before Auckland could respond. Cam Bailey kicked the first, followed by Richie Heazlewood, before Levi Inglis slotted a goal around what appeared to be an impossible angle. The situation was looking dire for Auckland, however they responded late, counterattacking as a team and setting up Jamie Gresham for a well taken set shot.

Auckland continued their momentum, with Sam McKenzie constantly finding ways to get in the game and putting in a goal. Liam Beattie also scored, a reward for a bustling, hard working performance. Captain Michael Gregson and Te Kopa Tipene Thomas were outstanding as on-ballers, running and distributing. The lead was only 3 points for Canterbury at half time.

Over the third quarter, the wind and rain, which favoured Canterbury, began to die away. Across the park though they were relentless. Kyle Smith repeatedly got the better of his opponents, typifying the approach of his team. Points came thick and fast, with Chris Leader, Jared Percival and Smith himself scoring goals. The lead ballooned to 25 points at 3 quarter time.

The final quarter was a brilliant example of controlled football, with stand in captain Jared Court marshalling his team and shepherding them towards the title. Canterbury never slacked off despite their lead, with players throwing themselves into every contest. Even when the game seemed beyond doubt, Louis Watt still made the extra effort to put a hand on what looked like a certain Auckland goal. Tournament standout Richie Heazlewood appropriately kicked his team’s final goal, with Taungakava adding a consolation goal for Auckland.

Canterbury: 3.5, 3.6, 6.10. 7.11 (49) Heazlewood 2, Bailey, Smith, L Inglis, Leader, Percival

Auckland: 1.0, 3.3, 3.3, 4.6 (24) Gresham, McKenzie, Beattie, Taungakava


*Please note – Tournament Awards, Leading Goal Kickers and NZ Hawks Squad Selections to be published on 8/12/14.