Michael Butson leads Canterbury to representative rugby league win
Former Melbourne Storm junior Michael Butson staked a claim for Canterbury Bulls selection after leading the Canterbury representative rugby league team to a good win over a young Auckland combination.
A late try to Aranui Eagles centre Vinnie Paul earned Canterbury a 26-20 victory over the Auckland Vulcans 21s at Christchurch’s A and P Showgrounds on Monday.
Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi, who also guided the Canterbury side, was “really impressed” with the performance, “considering the limited preparation”.
“The boys definitely stood up and delivered in terms of the game plan and hung in there when it got tough.”
Auimatagi expected beforehand that a few of of his young charges would stake a strong claim for a place in the Bulls’ NZRL Premiership squad.
“We thought they would go well, and they didn’t disappoint.”
Auimatagi gave special credit to Northern Bulldogs backrower Butson and Papanui Tigers utility Nathan Saumalu, who scored one of Canterbury’s five tries.
“We handed Michael Butson the captaincy today and he was outstanding. He has utility value, but prefers to play in the middle and he was strong there and he managed to make some line breaks on the edge when we moved him to the second row.
“Nathan came off the bench and played a long time at fullback and also at hooker, and he was pretty electric.”
Butson created a good try for starting hooker Isaac Misky with a fine offload.
Saumalu suffered a suspected broken nose later in the game and Canterbury also lost their first try-scorer, Tauvale Tauvale, who gashed his lip in the act of scoring.
Bulls captain Chris Bamford was drafted in as a late replacement after a defection. “Chris was the ideal guy to send a SOS to help the young guys out,” Auimatagi said.
But the Linwood veteran had to go off with a suspected dislocated finger.
Canterbury led 14-10 at halftime but Auckland struck back with two tries to lock it up at 20-20 until Paul scored the winner for Canterbury.
AT A GLANCE
Canterbury 26 (Tauvale Tauvale, Isaac Misky, Nathan Saumalu, Tommy Belford, Vinnie Paul tries; Gus Anderson 3 goals) beat Auckland Vulcans 20. HT: 14-10.
The Press – Tony Smith