2022 Canterbury vs Wellington

Bunnings NPC Semifinal Recap: Wellington, Canterbury Move On

Bunnings NPC Semifinal Recap: Wellington, Canterbury Move On

Canterbury and Wellington, two of the Bunnings NPC's most historic clubs, will meet next weekend for the 2022 title.

Oct 16, 2022 by Briar Napier
Highlights: Canterbury Vs. Bay of Plenty

Thanks for playing, Bay of Plenty. See you around, Auckland.

The dispatching of those teams from the semifinals of the Bunnings NPC this weekend means only one thing - Canterbury and Wellington, two of the competition's most historic clubs, are on a collision course for the 2022 title. They'll meet in the final next weekend.

Before that highly-anticipated showdown can get under way, there's a lot to unpack from the weekend of play that just took place. 

With the season nearing its conclusion, the rugby is at its best, making it fitting that the two division champions from the regular season will be squaring off for the top honor in New Zealand provincial rugby.

Can Oct. 22 get here any faster?

What went down in the semifinal round of the Bunnings NPC this past weekend? 

Here's a look at who is moving on and who is going to watch the remainder of the postseason at home. Next week's championship match will be streamed live on FloRugby.

Wellington Clears 50 Points As It Chases History

Since New Zealand's annual provincial rugby competition turned professional in 2006, Wellington - though close many times, having made it to the competition final on six occasions in the pro era - hasn't been able to hold up a championship trophy since the event's amateur days. 

With the Lions' demolition of Auckland in their Bunnings NPC semifinal clash, however, it's quite possible that Wellington has its best shot to date at grabbing the crown. 

In front of their faithful this weekend at Sky Stadium, the Lions blitzed Auckland 54-19 to seal their place in the title match, getting seven players over the try line, while center Riley Higgins crossed over twice. The Lions' attack was fierce and downright deadly. 

Higgins, Julian Savea, Asafo Aumua and Jackson Garden-Bachop all scored tries before Auckland had even gotten on the scoreboard, dazing the visitors and leaving them on the ropes, as their third final appearance in five years looked further and further out of sight. 

Auckland flanker Niko Jones managed to get a try just before halftime, while lock Jackson Pugh also got five points not long after the intermission in what proved to be a futile attempt to stop the bleeding, as it was all Lions all the time during the match. 

Wellington never looked out of control and fully proved its mettle in being a worthy challenger to Canterbury in the hopes of the Lions' first NPC win overall since 2000, a prize that's been long-awaited by the club, especially considering its many opportunities.

And though he didn't score, Wellington captain and Hurricanes star Du'Plessis Kirifi had his hands all over the match, assisting on Savea's opening try and setting the pace from there. 

The Lions haven't lost since Round 3 - a streak not even Canterbury can hold a candle to at the moment - and are the most in-form club right now, even with the might of the Christchurch club standing in their way. 

Perhaps next week's showdown might just be meant to be for the Lions. After all, they've waited long enough already, haven't they?

Canterbury Controls Bay Of Plenty To Return To Final

A massive, historic performance was always going to be what Bay of Plenty needed if it was to shut down the force and strength of Canterbury, long considered a powerhouse in the Bunnings NPC and once again considered the favorite to take another provincial rugby championship back to Christchurch. 

Sure enough, Canterbury sealed its spot in its record 11th final appearance in the pro era with a 24-10 triumph over the Steamers at the Orangetheory Stadium, though Bay of Plenty certainly tried its best to make things interesting. 

One win away from playing for its first Bunnings NPC title, by contrast, the tourists briefly led, scoring the first points of the match via a penalty from fly-half Wharenui Hawera in the 14th minute. 

But, in this semifinal, it was the Fergus Burke show. 

The 23-year-old scored every single Canterbury point, getting his first try in the 34th minute and a second in the 57th minute, to go along with 4-for-4 kicking on penalties and a conversion kick just for the cherry on top. 

A second-half try from Bay of Plenty lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi, who scored twice in the Steamers' quarterfinal triumph over Waikato, made things interesting, but two Burke penalty kicks within four minutes of each other in the game's final stanza put the match to bed and officially booked Canterbury's ticket to the final, which it will host.

The regular season champions on points and the postseason's No. 1 overall seed, coach Marty Bourke's men will be determined to get the job done in the Bunnings NPC once again, as they've done nine of the 10 times since 2006 that they've appeared in the competition's final, but the difference this time around is that it has been a while since the club has tasted glory. 

Canterbury's title drought, stretching back to 2017, is its longest stretch without a provincial title since the turn of the century and its longest of the pro era of the competition.