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Canterbury extend lead with Taranaki win

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/10/2016

Canterbury have resisted a late Taranaki surge to claim a 39-34 win and stretch their lead to eight in the NPC premiership competition.

The two clubs, sitting in third and first on the ladder, produced a stirring display in New Plymouth and traded blows for the full 80 minutes.

But a pair of late Bulls tries was not enough to catch the Cantabrians, who had put themselves in an unassailable position with a 76th-minute Jordie Barrett penalty.

Canterbury now move to 35 points after securing a bonus point for scoring four tries, while Taranaki remain in third but gain their own bonus point.

Canterbury's afternoon started in the worst possible way when halfback Alby Mathewson was stretchered off in the third minute with a serious arm injury.

A pair of Marty McKenzie penalty goals then put Taranaki ahead by six, before a Barrett three-pointer and Jack Stratton breakaway try saw the lead change hands.

The Bulls produced a gritty opening stanza against the Log o' Wood holders and used a period of sustained pressure to edge back in front through hooker Rhys Marshall.

Canterbury skipper Luke Whitelock then restored his side's lead with a try under the posts after some nice Barrett lead-up play in the 29th minute.

Bulls blindside Mitchell Brown was then sent to the bin for striking, but the yellow card seemed to galvanise the side.

No.8 Iopu Iopu-As collected a 38th minute scrum feed to stroll over and put Taranaki ahead 18-17 at the break.

Canterbury came out for the second half rejuvenated and reclaimed the lead in the 45th minute when the exciting Barrett beat his man and went over.

The younger brother of All Blacks star Beauden then played the hero by knocking the ball out of Taranaki winger Declan O'Donnell's hands as he looked to score.

McKenzie then hit a pair of penalties to level the scores, before Whitelock collected a scrum feed to put his side back in front in the to-and-fro affair.

A kick-chase try from substitute Richie Mo'unga then put some daylight between the sides, before a Bulls try to fullback Stephen Perofeta reduced the gap again.

Barrett then hit a penalty goal to push the lead out to 10, before a 78th-minute consolation try to Toa Halafihi gave Bulls fans a futile glimpse of victory.

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