Tigers Aim To Turn The Tables On Clinical Keas
After securing a thrilling sudden-death win against Celebration at Murphy Park last Saturday, Papanui coach Shane Endacott is hoping to draw out a complete 80-minute performance from his charges when they confront a mountainous preliminary final task in the shape of Linwood this weekend.
The Tigers powered to an emphatic 18-4 halftime lead over the Lions in the minor semi, before being out-scored four tries to two in the second stanza. The plucky Lions closed to within four points of the Tigers on three occasions, while only the flawless goalkicking of veteran halfback Izic Placid separated the teams in a 32-24 result.
“It was hard-fought, a bit of a seesaw match actually,” Endacott said post-match, lamenting his side’s second-half fade.
“I thought at halftime we would have made it a bit easier for ourselves but full credit to Celebration, they came back and turned it into a real fight.
“At this time of the season you’ve got to get into those arm-wrestles and protect your lead, so it is a bit of a concern (that we clocked off).
“A couple of injuries there, too, which is a bit of a worry for next week, but we’ll be right.”
Racking up points hasn’t been much of a problem in 2017 for the Tigers, posting 22-plus in 11 of their 15 outings so far and amassing 32 points or more on six occasions.
But they have a major bogey to overcome on Saturday – the Keas held them scoreless in both of their regular-season showdowns. The Tigers went down 13-0 at Linwood Park in Round 3, while the defending champs put them to the sword 26-0 at Papanui Domain in Round 10.
Endacott, though, is more concerned with the Tigers’ work on the other side of the ball.
“We haven’t scored a point against Linwood this year, but we all know defence wins finals so we’ll keep working on that,” the coach said.
Papanui’s campaign has been characterised by high-scoring matches, conceding 20-plus points in all but five of their games in 2017. Giving up easy points to Keas – the premiership’s defensive benchmark – is likely to ensure the Tigers watch the August 13 grand final from the grandstands.
But if the underdog Tigers are searching for inspiration they need look no further than two years ago, when they edged the Keas 20-14 in extra-time in the epic 2015 grand final.
Placid skippered that drought-breaking success – Papanui’s first title win in 17 years – and looms as the Tigers’ trump card on Saturday.
The wily playmaker scored the first try against Celebration, set up the Tigers’ second and kept a cool head down the stretch as the Lions rallied. His vital six-from-six with the boot completed a brilliant all-round display.
Endacott admitted it was a luxury having a player of Placid’s quality and experience calling the on-field shots.
“I think he was the difference,” Endacott said.
“And if (the Lions) were kicking those two points like Izic was, we would have felt that pressure a lot more.”
CRL PREMIERS PRELIMINARY FINAL
Linwood Keas v Papanui Tigers – 2.45pm, Saturday, August 5 @ Murphy Park