Injury-hit Keas Use Layoff To Their Advantage
They say the best thing about a loss is that it’s only a week until the next game, but circumstances have consigned defending champs Linwood Keas to a frustrating 21-day wait to make amends for their heavy Round 1 loss to Hornby Panthers.
Following the 38-12 grand final rematch defeat, the injury-hit Keas were foiled by the weather last week, while the Easter break means their next hit-out is not until April 22, when they host Papanui Tigers in the first home game of their title defence.
Keas coach Andrew Auimatagi remains philosophical about the seven-tries-to-two drubbing inflicted on his depleted side, however.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough day at the office,” Auimatagi said.
“Hornby have a pretty strong squad and we probably didn’t have the guys available that we were hoping for.
“The guys that did play put in a good effort, but we weren’t at the level Hornby were on the day.”
The Keas trailed the Panthers by just two points at halftime after both sides posted two tries, but it was all one-way traffic in the second stanza. The premiers’ cause was not aided by match-ending injuries suffered by Chris Nijssen and Shane Bowden.
“I thought going into halftime the game could have gone either way, but with those two injuries – and we had another guy with a big gash in his head – it set us back a bit.”
“Hornby started the second half far too strong for us, and it was pretty hard for the boys to come back from there.”
The highly-rated Rockcote Canterbury Bulls mentor and New Zealand Residents assistant coach believes that although his charges are itching to get back out on the paddock, the lengthy break will work in their favour as they wait for the cavalry to return.
“We had a good debrief after the game and tried to address a few areas where the boys felt they let their standards slip, and they’ve trained pretty well since,” Auimatagi revealed.
“I think the poor weather and the increased layoff has helped some of our guys with injuries recover a bit better, so we’re hoping it’s been a blessing in disguise.”
Auimatagi expects Rockcote Canterbury Bulls forwards Alex Todd and Jiordan Fidow-Kele, prolific try-scorer Will Yeow and young fullback recruit Ben McIvor to all be back on deck for next weekend, along with a couple of newcomers who were unable to play in Round 1 due.
The Keas face a formidable task getting off the mark in Round 3, hosting a Papanui outfit that surged to a 46-22 win over Celebration Lions first up – despite Tigers coach Shane Endacott’s dire predictions for his side’s early-season fortunes in the wake of a heavily disrupted build-up.
“Papanui had a good win and looking at their roster, they’ve got some talented players there,” Auimatagi said.
“I’m sure they’ll be really looking forward to the challenge against us as well, and I’m sure it will be a good game as well.”