Via Tony Smith – The Press

Akarana Falcons have upset hometown heroes the Canterbury Bulls to defend the Albert Baskerville Trophy.

The Auckland based Akarana have beaten the previously undefeated Bulls 28-10 in the National Provincial Premiership rugby league grand final at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub in Christchurch on Saturday.

Canterbury, playing their first home final since 2009, went into the 2019 decider as favourites after beating Akarana 28-18 in the opening week of the competition last month.

Saturday’s final was an historic occasion for rugby league in Canterbury with it being the first National Provincial Premiership decider to be played at the sport’s new home of Ngā Puna Wai.

Akarana Falcons captain Francis Leger opened the scoring with a converted try but 10 minutes later the Bulls hit back with two tries to left winger Regan Stanton within four minutes.

But Stanton literally threw away that advantage when his loose pass, coming off his own line, handed a try-scoring opportunity to Akarana’s Josiah Afu.

The talented hooker was named MVP of the final.

Leger’s simple conversion gave the Falcons a 12-10 halftime lead.

Akarana’s Nalu Tuigamala opened the scoring in the second half with a try from dummy half just nine minutes after the break.

Ten minutes later, another try from a dummy half run gave Afu his second to extend the Falcons’ lead to 22-10.

Blockbusting prop Solomon Vasuvalagi again broke the Bulls defences open with just under 15 minutes to play to effectively end Canterbury’s chances at a first national title since 2014.

The Falcons defeated the Counties Stingrays 51-20 in last year’s final.

Akarana Falcons 28 (Francis Leger, Josiah Afu 2, Nalu Tuigamala, Solomon Vasuvalagi tries; Leger 4 goals) beat Canterbury Bulls 10 (Regan Stanton 2 tries, Tevin Arona 1 goal).

Photo Credit – Photosport

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