Match details: Canterbury vs Wellington, Saturday 22nd October, 7.05pm, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch. Live on Sky Sport NZ.
Both Canterbury and Wellington come into the final in imperious form. They have each won their last nine consecutive games in the Bunnings NPC and topped their respective conferences. The last time Canterbury won more games on the trot was a 10-game streak from 2013 to 2014 while the last time Wellington won more in a row was an 18-game stretch across the 1986 and 1987 seasons. There’s no doubting the two best teams in the competition have found their way to the final.
Since the dawn of the new millennium, Canterbury (199 from 265) and Wellington (165 from 238) have won more games in the NPC than any other provinces. However, since 2000, Canterbury have won the NPC Premiership 11 times, Wellington have lost nine finals (7 Premiership, 2 Championship) in the same period. Canterbury beat Wellington in the 2004 (40-27), 2008 (7-6), 2009 (28-20) and 2013 (29-13) deciders. Wellington last won the NPC Premiership in 2000 when they beat Canterbury at a sold out Lancaster Park, Christchurch, 34-29. It’s a game that has been dubbed by many as the greatest NPC game of all time. Canterbury’s last Premiership title win came in 2017 when they defeated Tasman 35-13.
CLASH OF THE NUMBER EIGHTS
The clash between powerhouse Peter Lakai and Canterbury skipper Billy Harmon at No.8 could be instrumental to this clash. 19-year-old Lakai has been a revelation in his first full season with the Lions and leads the competition in carries (133) and is fifth in most tackles made with 127. Similar to Lakai, Harmon is a player who is never far from the action. Expect both players to get their hands on the ball early and set the tone for what promises to be a highly physical final.
HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE
Canterbury are unbeaten at home in 2022 and dispatched the Lions 43-10 in round two in Christchurch. However, Canterbury know they face a different Wellington side to the one they met earlier in the season according to skipper Billy Harmon. “They’re a completely different team to when we last played them. They’re going to back themselves, they play with confidence and they’ve got strike power all over the field,” said Harmon.
George Bridge is currently on an eight-game stretch without a try in the Bunnings NPC, twice as long as he’s ever previously gone without a try in the competition; however, he has crossed for a try in two of his three previous games against Wellington.
1: Tamaiti Williams 2: Brodie McAlister 3: Owen Franks 4: Dominic Gardiner 5: Zach Gallagher 6: Corey Kellow 7: Tom Christie 8: Billy Harmon (C) 9: Willi Heinz 10: Fergus Burke 11: George Bridge 12: Rameka Poihipi 13: Dallas McLeod 14: Manasa Mataele 15: Chay Fihaki
Reserves: George Bell, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Reed Prinsep, Mitchell Drummond, Isaiah Punivai, Ngatungane Punivai
1: Xavier Numia 2: Asafo Aumua 3: Pekahou Cowan 4: James Blackwell 5: Dominic Bird 6: Caleb Delany 7: Du’Plessis Kirifi (C) 8: Peter Lakai 9: TJ Perenara 10: Jackson Garden-Bachop 11: Pepesana Patafilo 12 Riley Higgins 13: Billy Proctor 14: Julian Savea 15: Ruben Love
Reserves: James O’Reilly, PJ Sheck, Tietie Tuimauga, Taine Plumtree, Keelan Whitman, Richard Judd, Aidan Morgan, Connor Garden-Bachop