Canterbury demonstrated the squad depth they currently have at their disposal by scoring a 40-33 win over Auckland in the ITM Cup on Sunday.
It ended up being a platform to stage the talent coming through the Canterbury ranks as Patrick Osbourne, Ryan Crotty, Willie Heinz and Jonny McNicholl scored the tries. Auckland's five-point responses came via Onosa'i Auva, a penalty try and one from scrum-half Alby Mathewson.
Several of the Baby Blacks were on show in the fixture which included devastating wings Francis Saili and Charles Piutau. And it was the pair's Auckland side who took an early lead thanks to three penalties from fly-half Gareth Anscombe.
Canterbury struck back with a try on seventeen minutes though after impressive number eight Nasi Manu ran hard before the ball found its way to flank O'Connor from about 20 metres out. He did the rest before the home side came back with a response of their own, flank Onosa'i Avua'a getting over in the 27th minute.
Manu was involved again soon after when he presented good ball for his back-line before a pass found the under-rated Crotty, who beat Daniel Braid in the act of scoring.
That put Canterbury 17-16 ahead and with Crotty becoming prominent, full-back McNicholl then was the recipient of good work from the centre. Tom Taylor added the conversion.
Heinz then joined the party on 48 minutes as Canterbury began to pull away on the scoreboard, but then Auckland fought back with a penalty try and a short bust from Mathewson to ensure they finished their opening game with a losing bonus-point.
Tries: Auva'a, penalty try, Mathewson
Con: Anscombe 3
Pen: Anscombe 4
Tries: O'Connor, Crotty, McNicholl, Heinz
Con: Taylor 4
Pen: Taylor 4
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Francis Saili, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Onosa'i Auva', 5 Josh Townsend, 4 Steven Luatua, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Richard Haddon/Nathan Hughes, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Tevita Mailau.
Canterbury: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Patrick Osbourne, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Ash Parker (c), 5 Luke Romano, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Andrew Olorenshaw, 2 Paul Ngauamo, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Mark Swanepoel, 21 Kolio Hifo, 22 Robbie Fruean, 23 Sam Cottom.