Keas Dedicate Win To ‘The Godfather’
BY MAT KERMEEN – THE PRESS
A Christchurch rugby league club have celebrated Father’s Day by honouring the man they called The Godfather.
Less than two hours after Linwood Keas captain Agaese Fiso lifted the Pat Smith Memorial Trophy at AMI Stadium on Sunday, the Keas stood around Teni Tuli’s grave in an emotional tribute to their former teammate.
Tuli, a Linwood stalwart who won two grand finals in 2005 and 2008, died at training last year, one week short of his 300th game for the club.
The Keas dedicated their 29-10 grand final win over the Hornby Panthers to their former teammate.
“Today is for a lot of people but in particular our brother Teni, he’s looking down on us with a big smile,” Linwood coach Andrew Auimatagi said following the grand final triumph.
Playing with a howling gale at their backs, Linwood blew Hornby off the park in the first half and effectively had the match won when they went to the sheds up 28-6 at halftime.
Winger Will Yeow opened Linwood’s account inside two minutes and Daniel Hartley scored their second before 10 minutes had been played.
Four minutes later Hartley set up Matt Sauni and his conversion took the score to 16-0.
Two more tries to Toi Sepuloni and Mike Nicholls-Cane in quick succession took the score to 28-0 with just 25 minutes gone.
Hornby finally got going with a try to Tauvale Tauvale and a sideline conversion from James Baxendale on the half hour mark.
Panthers captain Corey Lawrie was proud of his side but said Linwood were so good it was impossible for his side to compete in the first half.
“I don’t think they let us get going.
“They played the perfect 40 minutes, I think that’s the best half of footy I’ve seen from any team in a long time,” Lawrie said.
The second half was more evenly contested with Linwood’s sole point coming from a Hartley field goal but Hornby were only able to add one try through Gene Spooner.
Even with the wind at their backs, Hornby could not get enough go forward against the much bigger Linwood pack.
The kicking game of Linwood halves Sepuloni and Hartley, constantly kept Hornby under pressure and set up countless repeat sets.
“They were outstanding for us building that pressure in the first half and it paid dividends,” Auimatagi said.
Auimatagi, who also praised his side’s defence, said he had watched Linwood work hard at training all year and to see it come together the way it did in a final was hugely rewarding.
He won the Pat Smith Memorial Trophy twice as player and said doing it as a coach was extremely satisfying.
As well as being rocked by Tuli’s death, Linwood lost the use of its clubrooms since the earthquakes.
“We’ve been through a lot of tough stuff but we’ve hung together as a club,” Auimatagi said.
“Everyone does their bit and we all look out for each other.”
Mel Cooke Memorial Trophy winner for man of the match Erwin Sauni said Linwood’s confidence was so high it felt like they could do no wrong in the first half.
The Keas’ front row of props Chris Bamford and Alex Todd, plus hooker Alani Kakoi were outstanding in the first 20 minutes which set the tone for Linwood’s win.
Scorers: Linwood 29 (Will Yeow, Daniel Hartley, Matt Sauni, Toi Sepuloni tries; Hartley 3 goals, field goal) Hornby 10 (Tauvale Tauvale, Gene Spooner tries; James Baxendale goal).
Photo Credit: Joseph Johnson / Fairfax NZ