Canterbury started off the final Super Series with a match against the big hitting Liverpool Lions. It was a physical test with both David Barber and Ollie Mangion being tackled hard to the ground during the game. The physicality of Liverpool couldn't stop the pace of Mangion, Brown and Barber scoring at will. Continuous rotation eventually slowed down the flow of the Hellfire team as the coach tried to get everyone on the pitch. There were a few sparks of Canterbury's exciting pressing game but they never were out of second gear. Canterbury won 44 - 28.
Next up, Hellfire dominated Yorkshire Lions from start to finish as they won 52-39. Yorkshire played well but lacked the cutting edge needed against a tight defence. In the second quarter, Canterbury took advantage of the inexperienced Lions. Substitutes Brian Pitchford and Ben Richardson put on a long ball master class. Brian Pitchford threaded long balls through the Lions defence creating easy scores. And Richardson bypassed Yorkshire players on inbounds to Steve Brown. The lead was never in danger and Canterbury edged closer to promotion
The final match of the day was a fierce game against Ospreys. The Welsh squad smartly marked out (captain and lowest pointer) Harry Langley of the game with two players and depriving the Canterbury ball handlers of help. The ploy stopped the easy attacks for Canterbury and they spent 2 quarters trying to figure out how to combat it. But in the second half something clicked, Hellfire started to use their man advantage more efficiently to advance up court. Their pressing went up another level as they changed their defensive approach and forced Ospreys into poor passes. Ospreys made a late run in the fourth quarter but, it wasn't enough as Canterbury managed to the win 54-50
The team looked refreshed on the final day, ready to gain promotion to Division One. It was a game played in good spirits against Gloucester. In the first half, Hellfire played the type of rugby that had placed them on top of the table. They came out ruthlessly energetic and committed. Big hits against Gloucester players were common as they, Canterbury, owned the territory and hounded them to keep them in half. However, in the third quarter, concentration slipped as a 12 goal lead slipped to 2. Hellfire were stunned when Gloucester started fighting back. Balls kept slipping from fingers as the nerves of a promotion clinching game started coming to the surface. Gloucester brought back their starters as they sensed an opportunity. Eventually though, Hellfire finally exerted their authority and pulled away as the starting four came back on to the court to win 52-45. This win secured the Division and automatic promotion
There was no time to celebrate though as they met West Coast Burn in the final. Canterbury wanted this game badly to go through the entire Super Series unbeaten. The tension was palpable at the start of the game but, Burn started the better. West Coast played smoothly, with very few passes dropped. In transition, Canterbury just seemed a second too slow throughout the game. Ryan Sheridan and Domonic Chadwick of Burn were able to position down low nearly every time and get out of the half. They worked together well to break a tough Canterbury defence. Canterbury had an opportunity to go ahead at the end of the first but a dropped pass meant Burn scored the last goal of the first quarter to lead 12-11. West Coast carried this impetus into the next quarter, improving their lead by forcing Canterbury into poor positions. Canterbury was down by five and called a strategic timeout to gain composure. They came out firing and incredible defensive play from the whole team enabled Canterbury to capture 4 interceptions in 5 Burn possessions. They were heading into the final seconds level. However, star player, Josh Wheeler scored with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to again carry the impetus for Burn into the next quarter.
Burn retreated into key defence for most of the third to slow down the pace of the game and conserve energy. It had a secondary impact of lulling Canterbury's game. Burn has the best key defence in the Division as exemplified by the silly errors and fouls conceded by the Kent team. Canterbury heads dropped as the lead edged further and further away. Burn played intelligently as they scored every last goal in every quarter. Eventually that added up to a 42-50 loss
After the game, there was a sombre mood due to their first loss of the season; however looking back Canterbury has played brilliantly all season. They have won 14 games in a row and gained promotion for the second time in three seasons. They finished top to win their first ever division title. The Hellfire boys won plenty of individual awards. They had the most potent offence while also having the meanest defence. There is a lot to be celebratory about. And as a reward for a fantastic season, Division One awaits.
On a final note a big thank you to everyone who has helped out with the team and everyone who supported us on the road. We couldn't do it without you.
|W||22 Apr||Bury St. Edmunds||14-13|
|L||25 Feb||Bishop's Stortford||30-46|
|W||11 Feb||London Irish WG||21-17|
|L||4 Feb||Taunton Titans||5-30|
|D||21 Jan||Bishop's Stortford||0-0|
|L||17 Dec||Old Elthamians||14-18|
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