CRL SEMI-FINALS WRAP
Linwood Keas qualified for their fourth straight men’s premiership grand final, while Northern Bulldogs kept their season alive as shocking weather gripped Canterbury Rugby League’s semi-final weekend.
The Keas edged out archrivals Hornby Panthers 12-10 in a tense major semi-final played in a Linwood Park mudbath.
The hosts scored the first try of the match through tryscoring machine Rangi Thompson, but the Panthers surged to a 10-4 lead after Corey Lawrie pounced on a loose ball to score after a Keas error. Matt Sauni powered over from dummy-half five minutes before halftime to cut the deficit to two points.
Ben Ilalio’s try after the break put Linwood back in front and would prove the only points of the second half, with the atrocious conditions forcing both teams into inevitable errors.
Hornby was without key playmaker Tevin Arona due to a hamstring strain, but they are confident of having the key playmaker back for this Saturday’s preliminary final showdown with Northern.
The Bulldogs ultimately carved out a comfortable 24-10 win over fourth-placed Eastern Eagles, but the visiting underdogs led 10-6 at the break after the hosts could muster only one try in the opening 40 minutes, scored by hardworking prop Ethan Plaskett.
Halfback Mesiah Ngatuere and second-rower Junior Peneli scored for Eastern to raise hopes of an upset.
The Bulldogs’ experience and class came to the fore in the second stanza, however, holding the Eagles – who were featuring in the playoffs for the first time in nine years – scoreless and crossing for three well-crafted tries.
Prop Lucuster Mati, second-rower Viliame Koroi and interchange Tom Mansfield dotted down, while Nathaniel Tirikatene converted all three tries to give the Bulldogs vital breathing space.
Riccarton Knights confirmed their Gore Cup favouritism with a 42-14 win over Halswell Hornets at Crosbie Park. The fifth-placed Knights led 20-6 at halftime and went on with the job, while centre Jope Tagicakibau finished with a hat-trick and veteran hooker Justin Lynch picked up his customary four-pointer.
The Hornets will vie for a Gore Cup final berth against Celebration Lions, who overwhelmed last-placed Papanui Tigers 38-18 at Cuthberts Green. Javan Ataera notched three tries for the Lions, while Kasi Leka bagged a double.
Northern Bulldogs kept their Canterbury Cup title defence alive with a tense minor semi 10-8 victory over the Panthers in the first match of Saturday’s Kaiapoi double-header. The Panthers were ahead 8-6 at halftime but Daniel Maat came off the Bulldogs’ bench to score the only try of the second half.
They progress to a preliminary final date with Shirley Hawks, who lost a golden point heart-breaker to Linwood Keas. Linwood prevailed 14-10 with an extra-time try to ensure a double Keas presence on grand final weekend.
Marist Saints carried their top-of-the-table form into the Division One playoffs, swamping defending champs Burnham Chevaliers 26-4 to claim the first 2019 grand final berth.
Woolston Rams set up a preliminary final date with their 2018 grand final adversaries courtesy of a 30-10 defeat of Ashburton Barbarians at Robilliard Park. The Rams will face the Chevaliers on Saturday.
Burnham Chevaliers maintained their undefeated record in the CRL women’s premiership with an impressive 38-26 win over 2018 champs Linwood Keas.
The Chevaliers progressed to the August 25 grand final at Ngā Puna Wai, while the Keas get a second bite of the cherry in the preliminary final against Hornby Panthers. The Panthers ended Eastern Eagles’ season with a 38-14 result in the sudden-death minor semi.
MASSETTI CUP SEMI-FINALS
Linwood Keas 12 (Rangi Thompson, Matt Sauni, Ben Ilalio tries) defeated Hornby Panthers 10 (Corey Lawrie try; James Baxendale 3 goals) at Linwood Park
Northern Bulldogs 24 (Ethan Plaskett, Lucuster Mati, Viliame Koroi, Tom Mansfield tries; Nathaniel Tirikatene 3, Michael Butson goals) defeated Eastern Eagles 10 (Mesiah Ngatuere, Sea Muaimalae tries; Junior Peneli goal) at Murphy Park