DOMINANT KEAS CLINCH FOURTH STRAIGHT GRAND FINAL BERTH
It was all one-way traffic this afternoon at Linwood Park as the Keas cruised to a fourth straight CRL grand final, outclassing Northern Bulldogs 48-10 in perfect winter footy conditions at ‘The Nest’.
The Bulldogs showed promise in the early minutes of the major semi playing all their footy in Linwood’s half. Strong in defence and threatening at the line, the Bulldogs turned up to play.
To Linwood’s credit, as soon as they got one glimpse at the line the tries would just keep rolling on. Two early touchdowns under the posts seemed to deflate Northern’s early attack.
Leading by 16 at halftime, the Keas kept their foot on the throat. They were dangerous in broken play and their forward pack laid a solid platform for their halves to set up tries out wide.
Daniel Hartley had a notable performance in a playmaking capacity. He produced an exceptional kicking game and linked well with his outside backs to craft multiple tries in the corner.
Meanwhile, winger Ben Ilalio and rampaging front-rower Jiordan Fidow-Kele both finished with hat-tricks, and centre Erwin Sauni bagged a double.
Some positives for Northern was their two tries they scored, which came from two impressive attacking plays. When their attack clicked they looked threatening; unfortunately; it was inconsistent go-forward that limited their chances at attacking Linwood’s formidable defence.
With 20 minutes to go and the game all but over, the visitors were on their haunches. Their fatigue late in the game was a determining factor to leaking 20 second-half points.
“A lot of one-on-one mistakes out wide, not winning the middle let us down. We want to see these boys in two weeks’ time and I think they know we can do it,” Bulldogs captain Chris Bamford said.
Northern next face Hornby Panthers on Saturday, where the winner will progress to the big dance at Rugby League Park the following Sunday.
“It was a disappointing performance but I back my boys to be in the final in two weeks’ time,” added Bamford, who scored yet another try to take his extraordinary 2018 tally to 19 in 15 games.
The Keas have earned themselves a week off and coach Andrew Auimatagi revealed his men had a good week a training leading into this game and knew the Bulldogs were a dangerous opponent.
Auimatangi also said it was special to be able to play a semi-final at their home ground.
“We will stick to our normal routine get back into training on Tuesday and get the boys focused on our next game, which is a pretty big game.”