FLASHBACK FRIDAY: LOCKE’S MIRACLE FINISH IN CHRISTCHURCH
As the New Zealand Warriors prepare for a crucial Round 14 encounter against ‘home’ side Manly at AMI Stadium this weekend, our Flashback Friday focuses on the clubs’ showdown in Christchurch eight years ago.
A bumper crowd of 20,271 – a Christchurch record for a rugby league match – defied the rainy, freezing conditions at the old Lancaster Park in Round 16 of the 2010 premiership to witness an absolute thriller.
Towards the end of a seesawing encounter, the sixth-placed Roosters appeared certain to overwhelm the 10th-placed Warriors, leading 18-8 with five minutes to go. But a trademark powerhouse try down a narrow corridor to Manu Vatuvei kept the Warriors’ hopes alive, cutting the deficit to four points.
Young winger Kevin Locke had already scored a memorable first-half double, and toed a Lance Hohaia grubber kick ahead from near halfway in the final minute of play as the Warriors rolled the dice one last time.
Displaying electrifying pace, Locke narrowly won the race to the ball ahead of Roosters speedster Phil Graham and planted the ball as his torso was simultaneously bent around the goalpost in a punishing collision.
Replays showed Locke had successfully scored the gutsy leveller, while James Maloney added the simple conversion after the siren to win a thrilling encounter 20-18.
“He only had eyes for the ball,” coach Ivan Cleary marvelled post-match.
“It was just set up, wasn’t it, as one of those moments? The last play of the game, goalposts in the way and he was only thinking about the football.
“You’ve got to love it when the players play like that.”
Locke’s bravery cost him two weeks in the injury ward, but earned a place in club folklore.
In his 2014 book The Book of NRL Lists, Canterbury Rugby League communications consultation Will Evans rated the buzzer-beating effort at No.7 in the list of ‘Regular Season Miracle Finishes’.
Riccarton Knights junior and former Canterbury representative Lewis Brown featured in the second-row for the Warriors that day. Meanwhile, Christchurch has enjoyed just one NRL fixture since – the Panthers-Warriors encounter in 2016.