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North Canterbury Upset Ellesmere to Claim Southbridge Shield
Article - Jonathan Leask
Photos - Ken Baker
North Canterbury produced a dominant display to upset Ellesmere 39-14 in the Southbridge Shield clash in Darfield.
Ellesmere had taken the honours nine times in 10 years in the annual fixture, but surrendered the shield on Saturday after being convincingly outgunned.
The North Canterbury forward pack gained ascendancy at the breakdown, with several Ellesmere breaks resulting in turnovers rather than the scoreboard pressure, while the visitors were converting with almost every opportunity.
"We took a majority of the chances that came our way," North Canterbury coach Shane Fletcher said.
"In the physical contests we got our detail better to put them under some pressure and were able to accumulate points.
"We shut them down when they put us under pressure and scrambled well which showed great attitude."
The North Canterbury scrum was also a key weapon putting Ellesmere under pressure on their own ball.
North Canterbury had three Lance Taylor penalties before Ellesmere fullback Mark Maitland found a gap around the fringes to score and Shannon Donald converted.
Not to be outdone, North Canterbury fullback Monty Maule broke the line and linked with halfback Freeman Eder who chipped to the corner for wing Pita Sekilagi to score. Taylor's conversion gave North Canterbury a deserving 16-7 lead at the break.
Maule was then given the kicking tee for a long range penalty shot, finding the crossbar on its way over.
The Englishman's raking punt found no-one at home for Ellesmere and set up replacement first-five Retallick to pot a penalty to go ahead 22-7.
Ellesmere then launched a concerted assault of their own but it resulted in captain John Legg being bundled into touch shy of the try line.
Moments later Maule made another decisive break but his two-on-one pass was knocked down by Ellesmere wing Willie McGoon and while most players looked to the referee, centre Chris Keane gathered the loose ball and ran in a simple try.
Retallick converted from out wide and then kicked a second penalty for a 25-point lead after 70 minutes.
With North Canterbury flanker Willie Kerr yellow carded, Ellesmere had replacement halfback Harry Kirk convert his own try with six minutes to play.
Shortly after, Ellesmere looked to have scored again to make for an interesting finish.
However, rather than score, wing Inoke Rasabale threw an audacious behind-the-back flick pass that went to no one when he had a clear run to the line.
Fittingly North Canterbury had the final say.
With Retallick swooping on a loose ball and not having the legs, he found a flying Sekilagi who cantered clear to put the exclamation point on the win.
North Canterbury 39 (Pita Sekilagi 2, Chris Keane tries. Lance Taylor 1 con 3pen, Brooke Retallick 2 con 2 pen, Monty Maule 1 pen)
Ellesmere 14 (Mark Maitland, Harry Kirk tries. Shannon Donald 2 con)
Sin-bin: Willie Kerr (NC)
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