CANTERBURY BULLS OVERPOWER WEST COAST IN 15-TRY ROMP
The New Era Glazing Canterbury Bulls flexed their muscle in a dominant NZRL National Men’s Premiership campaign-opening performance, putting away the visiting West Coast Chargers 82-6 at Ngā Puna Wai.
The home side piled on eight tries in the first half and another seven after the break. Elder statesman Toi Sepuloni was a standout at halfback with a 26-point haul from a try and 11 goals, as well as producing three try-assists and having a key hand in several more scoring movements.
But another key takeaway was the polished and cohesive team display from a youthful, new-look Canterbury line-up assembled by coach Andrew Auimatagi in his sixth season in charge. A clutch of tyros including hooker Zac Riley, five-eighth Etelani Pouli, co-captain and fullback Sincere Harraway, second-rower Zion Kamana and interchange forward Kyle Amer were among the Bulls’ best in a one-sided affair against a plucky Chargers outfit that never stopped trying.
Canterbury needed less than two minutes to get on the scoreboard, burly playmaker Sepuloni’s footwork and power close to the line proving too much for West Coast’s defence.
Alarm bells were ringing for the Chargers soon afterwards as Sepuloni’s sleight of hand caused havoc. The veteran dummied through the defensive line and slipped a one-handed pass for a trailing Harraway to stroll over for the second try of the afternoon.
The Bulls continued to outpace the clock after a West Coast fumble of a towering Sepuloni bomb. Winger Charlie Charlie was the beneficiary of a simple backline shift from the scrum win, muscling over out wide. Sepuloni nailed the sideline conversion for a 16-0 scoreline after nine minutes.
Former Coaster Harraway had a double soon afterwards, backing up a brilliant 30-metre bust from dummy-half by hooker Zac Riley. Five-eighth Pouli then carved up the Chargers with sizzling 50-metre solo try featuring two dummies, superb footwork and a clean pair of heels.
A couple of tryscoring chances for Charlie went begging courtesy of wayward passes, but Canterbury posted its sixth try just before the half-hour mark as second-rower Devaun Thompson cashed in on strong lead-up work from Riley and Uriah Tuli, and another fine pass from Sepuloni.
The onslaught continued right up to halftime: Pouli laid on a four-pointer for hard-running edge back-rower Zion Kamana, before Hornby’s powerhouse centre, Will Tafua, reached out to score. Sepuloni converted both tries from out wide for a 44-0 scoreline at the break.
West Coast had the first say in the second half after Harraway coughed up a swirling bomb, five-eighth Jordan Duggan trailing through to score. But the Bulls responded immediately after the Chargers failed to control the ensuing kick-off. Interchange quartet Jordan Campbell, Kyle Amer, Josh Afamasaga and Champ Betham combined for the latter to barge over.
Charlie earned a belated double a few minutes later after quality blindside vision from dummy-half replacement Campbell and a good pass from Kamana. The imposing Afamasaga was next onto the scoresheet, crashing through off a nice short ball from Amer.
It was almost incongruous that prolific tryscorer Penetito Ilalio had yet to post a four-pointer, but the giant winger streaked 60 metres to score in the 61st minute after a superb half-break and offload from Sepuloni.
Kamana continued an outstanding Bulls debut with his second try, steaming through gap after fine work on the inside from Amer and Pouli.
Sepuloni was again prominent as Canterbury notched up a 14th try. Fleet-footed centre Joseph So’onalole ran away to finish a 90-metre movement from a scrum win.
Riley produced another Brandon Smith-esque bust from dummy-half to lay on Pouli’s second touchdown – another Bulls try that started on their own side of halfway – and complete the scoring.
“For a pretty young side they’ve gelled pretty well together,” Bulls co-captain Ethan Plaskett said post-match.
“It’s been a wee bit of limbo wondering whether we were going to play or not, but the boys just gel well together and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.
“It would have been easy to start throwing the ball around … but we kept to our game-plan and came away with it pretty well.”
Canterbury Bulls 82 (Sincere Harraway 2, Charlie Charlie 2, Zion Kamana 2, Etelani Pouli 2, Toi Sepuloni, Devaun Thompson, Will Tafua, Champ Betham, Josh Afamasaga, Penetito Ilalio tries; Sepuloni 11 goals) defeated West Coast Chargers 6 (Jordan Duggan try; Corbin McMillan goal) at Ngā Puna Wai.
WHEN THEY SCORED
2 min: Canterbury 4-0 (Sepuloni try)
5 min: Canterbury 10-0 (Harraway try, Sepuloni goal)
9 min: Canterbury 16-0 (Charlie try, Sepuloni goal)
15 min: Canterbury 22-0 (Harraway try, Sepuloni goal)
18 min: Canterbury 28-0 (Pouli try, Sepuloni goal)
30 min: Canterbury 32-0 (Thompson try)
34 min: Canterbury 38-0 (Kamana try, Sepuloni goal)
39 min: Canterbury 44-0 (Tafua try, Sepuloni goal)
43 min: Canterbury 44-6 (Duggan try, McMillan goal)
45 min: Canterbury 50-6 (Betham try, Sepuloni goal)
48 min: Canterbury 54-6 (Charlie try)
54 min: Canterbury 60-6 (Afamasaga try, Sepuloni goal)
61 min: Canterbury 66-6 (Ilalio try, Sepuloni goal)
67 min: Canterbury 70-6 (Kamana try)
73 min: Canterbury 76-6 (So’onalole try, Sepuloni goal)
75 min: Canterbury 82-6 (Pouli try, Sepuloni goal)