Whalers lower Canterbury’s colours in boilover

It is the rivalry time forgot.

Otago had not played a proper Canterbury side in 50 years.

The teams have been moving in different orbits for decades but Covid brought them together again and the Whalers shocked the rugby league community by posting a surprise 36-28 in Christchurch yesterday.

Otago last played a full-strength Canterbury side in 1971 and got thumped 84-5.

The Whalers have played and even beaten Canterbury B teams during the intervening years.

But yesterday’s game was a milestone and the win even more rare.

You have to skip further back through the decades all the way to 1929 before history records an Otago team posting a win against a full-strength Canterbury team in Christchurch.

That is 92 years of history wiped out in 80 glorious minutes.

Experienced prop Ricki Allan summed up the feeling.

"It is a pretty awesome feeling for us, to be honest," he told the Sky Sport commentary team.

"Coming up here was going to be a bit of a step up and the Bulls are always a tough side.

"We’ve been grinding and toiling away for a few years and it might not be as big a surprise for us."

Allan pointed out it was not the end of the race.

"We are on a journey here and we are making progress, so we’re happy but there is still plenty of work to be done."

The win has helped the team secure a spot in the national playoffs.

Canterbury is also through to the playoffs and won the Southern Zone title despite the loss.

It would normally play in the Premiership but entered the Southern Zone tournament this season because Covid forced the Auckland Premiership teams into lockdown.

Canterbury was expected to dominate Otago but the Whalers owned the opening 20 minutes.

Prop Mika Mafi had a storming game and Jake Fowler was another who added plenty of energy.

Halfback Cameron Todd was putting in some challenging grubbers and set up the second try with a nicely weighted kick through.

The Whalers dominated territory and ran in four tries to two in the opening half.

They extended the lead to 24-12 when Thomas McKenzie made a determined 15m charge to the line.

Canterbury wrestled back some momentum when impressive fullback Sincere Harraway sprinted on to a fine pass and scored.

But Mackenzie Haugh pumped a 40-20 up field and Otago scored through BJ Tofaeono to establish a 14-point buffer.

Canterbury struck back again but hooker Sione Tonga Nau slipped over for his second and that left Canterbury with too much to do.

 

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