Flashback Friday: Panthers subdue Tigers to go back-to-back
Ahead of Sunday’s grand final blockbuster between Hornby Panthers and Linwood Keas at Linfield Park, Flashback Friday revisits the Panthers’ commanding 22-6 victory over Papanui Tigers in the 2010 decider.
The win saw the club become the first since Halswell Hornets (1999-2000) to claim back-to-back Pat Smith Trophy triumphs, having downed the Keas in the 2009 decider. Coach Scott Nixon was at the helm of both successes, while current stalwarts Corey Lawrie, Craig Smith and James Baxendale also featured.
Beaten Tigers coach Brent Stuart went on to mentor the Panthers to consecutive premierships in 2012-13 – Hornby’s last, pending the result in this weekend’s decider.
Relive the 2010 CRL grand final with Tony Smith’s match report for The Press.
By Tony Smith, The Press
Photo Credit: STACY SQUIRES/The Press – Hornby Panthers’ Jerome Taumoto is tackled by Papanui Tiger Gerard Simpson at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
Co-captain Corey Lawrie played through the pain barrier as Hornby’s old firm propelled the Panthers to their 26th Canterbury rugby league premiership yesterday.
The former Warriors and Doncaster backrower had his leg heavily strapped after passing a match-eve fitness test but he revealed he was “never going to miss a grand final”.
“Footy’s all about playing with pain,” he quipped after collecting the Pat Smith Trophy and the man of the match award after Hornby’s 22-6 win over the Papanui Tigers at Rugby League Park.
Hornby coach Scott Nixon, who has now won two titles in two years in charge, had predicted Hornby’s experience could be the telling factor.
His prophesy proved true with Lawrie, evergreen fullback Donny Aitken and standoff half Aaron Nixon – the man who had retired after last year’s grand final victory against Linwood – all got on the scoresheet while co-captain Jonny Limmer also had an influential game at dummyhalf.
The talented young Tigers got great service from slippery skipper Pani Manawatu and Izic Placid in the halves and brothers Gerard and Alex Simpson in the pack. But they struggled to breach the Panthers’ well-organised blanket defence.
However, an old-fashioned arm wrestle hung in the balance until the final quarter. Big Barry Alaimalo had given Hornby a halftime lead with a 35th-minute try. Harris extended the advantage to 10-0, scoring near the posts after referee Adam Burns had ruled a scrum to Hornby when it looked suspiciously like a sneaky strip on wing Jeff Ingi by the Panthers’ seasoned centre, Craig Smith.
But some Manawatu magic after the Papanui scrumhalf chased his own final-tackle kick to dot down in front of the Tigers’ faithful, put the pressure on the Panthers. It was game-on at 10-6 until classy Panthers second rower James Baxendale broke clear to put Hornby hot on attack.
Lawrie launched what he later claimed was “a lucky kick” and the quest for the loose ball became a foot race between the 30-something Aitken and Papanui wing Rex Aliivaa. The bounce should have favoured the younger buck but Lawrie claimed “Hank [Aitken] looked like he was playing in 1995, he had that much pace”.
Aitken, who made a key tackle on runaway Papanui second rower Aaron Wansbrough, first won a grand final medal in 1996 and yesterday’s was Lawrie’s third. “Hopefully, there’ll be a couple more yet if the body keeps going.”
He added the final try, running on to a short ball from Limmer, with whom he has a telepathic understanding in the middle of the park.
Papanui coach Brent Stuart agreed Hornby had too much experience and guile when it counted and never allowed his team to strut their stuff. “Their defence was pretty outstanding, they got up on us. But it was a good learning curve for us. Hopefully we can keep this side together for another year or two.”
The Halswell Hornets won the Gore Cup bottom-four section grand final, 34-28, on Saturday with a match-winning, golden-point try in the 104th minute against the Aranui Eagles.
Hornby Panthers 22 (Barry Alaimalo, Aaron Harris, Donny Aitken, Corey Lawrie tries; James Baxendale 3 goals) Papanui Tigers 6 (Pani Manawatu try; Manawatu goal). HT: 4-0. Referee: Adam Burns