How good was it to finally have some club footy back again?

Fog blanketed Cuthberts Green on Saturday where the Linwood Keas played the Celebration Lions. Early on mistakes seemed to be Linwood’s worst enemy but didn’t stop them storming out to an early 10-point lead.

Two quick and clinical tries from Ben Ilalio and Mike Nichols-Cane put the Keas on the front foot. At the back end of the first half it was all the Lions – their halves really controlled the attack and seemed to rattle a formidable Linwood defence. Rawiri Maniapoto and Jazz Pouwhare put the home side within six at halftime.

It was a similar story in the second half: Linwood still looked like they were in the sheds when Celebration rolled forward with some impressive footy and brought it back to 16-all.

A run of penalties against the Lions would halt that momentum as Linwood capitalised and scored four more tries. Scoreboard pressure seemed to sink Celebration midway through the second half as they couldn’t quite keep up with Linwood’s relentless attack.

The tryscorers included Eddie Enosa, Erwin Sauni and a double for Willie Yeow. As they have done all season, the Keas played structured footy and let nothing through on defence.

Muipu Nati gave the home side a consolation try, but Linwood were ultimately too strong for Celebration and extended their unbeaten run with a 38-22 result.

Although a rough defeat, Celebration could be proud of their effort. They pressured Linwood for sections of the match and played some classy football at times. A run of penalties and continuous attack from Linwood really hurt them. Pose Manu was strong when running the ball and anchored his side’s attack well.

“We competed with them for the first 55 minutes. (But) Linwood being Linwood they get a roll on and they are a pretty hard team to stop,” Lions coach Steve Fenika said.

“For that first 60 minutes, we competed well and we really took it to them.”

Linwood made some uncharacteristic mistakes but eventually proved why they are unbeaten. Daniel Hartley stood out for the Keas. His kicking game put the Lions under a lot of pressure and showed his experience on attack by controlling their set plays.

“We tried to get back to basics and get back into our rhythm. Today the boys showed it in patches and hopefully we can improve on that,” Keas coach Andrew Auimatagi said.

The Keas next face the Riccarton Knights while the Lions host the Aranui Eagles.

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