Four huge deciders as history is made at Ngā Puna Wai – 2019 Grand Final Day is shaping as one of the most significant occasions in Canterbury Rugby League’s history.

11am – Division One Grand Final: Marist Saints v Woolston Rams @ Ngā Puna Wai – Rugby League 2

The 2017 Division One grand final combatants square off again in this year’s decider. Woolston Rams prevailed 28-20 on that occasion, but Marist Saints carry the favouritism tag after dropping just two games all season and accounting for defending champs Burnham Chevaliers 26-4 in the major semi.

The Saints took the spoils in all four regular-season clashes with the Rams: by default in Round 1, 30-16 in Round 6, 32-8 in Round 11 and 34-12 in Round 16.

But the Rams – who went down to Burnham in the 2018 grand final – bring significant momentum into this showdown. They swamped Ashburton Barbarians 32-8 in the sudden-death minor semi, before running away with a 56-6 preliminary final result over the depleted Chevaliers last week.

12.30pm – Women’s Premiership Grand Final: Burnham Chevaliers v Linwood Keas @ Ngā Puna Wai – Rugby League 1

Linwood Keas face a tall order retaining the Women’s Premiership title they won in such spectacular fashion at Rugby League Park last year, coming up against undefeated Burnham Chevaliers in the 2019 grand final.

The Chevaliers have beaten the Keas in all four encounters this season, though after an emphatic 49-16 result in Round 3, the subsequent three meetings were all decided by 12 points or less. Burnham won an entertaining major semi 38-26 a fortnight ago, before Linwood earned the right for a rematch by downing Hornby Panthers 38-10 in the preliminary final.

Fullback Jenna Stuart will skipper the Chevaliers, while Cassie Siataga – such an important figure in the Keas’ grand final triumph last season – is another trump card for the minor premiers after switching clubs in 2019. The Keas will lean heavily on New Zealand and Samoa Test rep Sui Pauaraisa, who was player of the match in the 2018 decider and again lines up at hooker, as well as halfback Taryn Caley and centre Lia Ah Sam.

1pm – Canterbury Cup Premier Reserves Grand Final: Linwood Keas v Shirley Hawks @ Ngā Puna Wai – Rugby League 2

Shirley Hawks will be hoping to turn the lessons of last year’s Canterbury Cup grand final loss to Northern Bulldogs into a history-making victory over top-of-the-table Linwood Keas on Sunday.

The teams played out a classic major semi at Linwood Park two weeks ago, with the Keas prevailing 14-10 in golden point. Honours were shared one win apiece during the regular season (accounting for Linwood’s only loss in 2019) and the Hawks will fancy their chances of an upset.

Coached by former Massetti Cup grand final hero Aga Fiso, the Keas boast a wealth of top-grade experience but Paul Lynch’s Hawks outfit carry the momentum of a preliminary final win over the Bulldogs into what shapes as an epic decider.

3pm – Massetti Cup Men’s Premiership Grand Final: Linwood Keas v Hornby Panthers @ Ngā Puna Wai – Rugby League 1

This Sunday’s historic men’s premiership grand final at Ngā Puna Wai will see another chapter of one of Canterbury Rugby League’s greatest club rivalries of the modern era unfold.

Linwood Keas and Hornby Panthers go toe-to-toe for the Pat Smith Trophy for the fourth straight year – and the seventh time in the past 15 seasons.

The CRL heavyweights played out one of the most dramatic deciders of all time last year to farewell Rugby League Park in fitting style. The Keas clinched a rare three-peat of titles by scoring three late tries, breaking the Panthers’ hearts again 20-16.

Honours were shared during the 2019 regular season. Hornby claimed a 20-12 win at Linwood Park in Round 3, but Linwood turned the tables at Leslie Park in a 20-18 thriller in Round 10.

There was very little between the sides in the major semi a fortnight ago, with the Keas prevailing 12-10 in a Linwood Park mudbath. Both firepower-laden outfits will be looking forward to a drier track this Sunday – and a slew of young new faces are poised to make their mark on the grand final.

Linwood fullback Jesse Rangihuna and Hornby counterpart Jordan Coleman have been in prolific tryscoring form, as have Keas winger Rangi Thompson and rookie Panthers centre Regan Stanton.

The battle between veteran Keas halves Toi Sepuloni and Daniel Hartley, and the Panthers’ youthful Rockcote Canterbury Bulls incumbents Tevin Arona and Brad Campbell will be vital. Dual Mel Cooke Trophy winner Alex Todd will lead the Keas’ pack from the front with captain Paul Sauni coming off the bench, and former backline mainstays Matt Sauni and Danny Latu pairing up in the second-row. The Panthers’ have a plethora of experience and class in the pack headlined by co-captains Rulon Nutira and James Baxendale, and the warhorse Corey Lawrie. But Hornby’s teenage second-rower Caius Faatili looms as arguably the player most capable of busting the grand final wide open.

Expect Linwood and Hornby to take the 2019 Canterbury Rugby League club season down to the wire yet again.

Linwood Keas v Hornby Panthers
CRFL  Grand Final 2018
26 August 2018
Addington Stadium, Christchurch
Photo Kevin Clarke CMGSPORT
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