This Sunday’s Bartercard NZ CRL 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 fifth time in six years – and the eighth time in the past 17 seasons.

The adversaries’ run of four consecutive Grand Finals against one another commenced in 2016, the Keas prevailing 29-10 at Rugby League Park.

In 2017, the Keas powered to a 34-20 victory at Linfield Park after the Panthers had surged to an early 16-4 lead – a match arguably best remembered for retiring Linwood legend Aga Fiso’s heroic and vital ankle-tap on runaway Hornby winger Charlie Charlie.

The CRL heavyweights played out one of the most dramatic deciders of all time in 2018 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.

Linwood snared a record-equalling fourth straight Grand Final victory in the historic maiden decider at Ngā Puna Wai in 2019 – a convincing 28-12 defeat of Hornby. After being tipped out during the 2020 playoffs by Northern Bulldogs – who went on to lose an epic Grand Final 16-10 as the Keas racked up an unprecedented fifth Pat Smith Trophy success in a row – the Panthers are back on Canterbury Rugby League’s biggest stage.

The Panthers finished top of the table, but the second-placed Keas snared the first spot in the 2021 Grand Final with a gripping 14-10 victory in the major semi a fortnight ago. The Panthers booked a rematch with Keas via a hard-fought 22-14 win over Halswell Hornets last weekend.

Between them, Hornby and Linwood won the first four Grand Finals after a playoffs system was implemented to decide Canterbury Rugby League’s premier club in 1967. Hornby defeated Addington in the inaugural ’67 decider and Marist-Western Suburbs two years later, while Linwood downed Papanui in 1968 and Marist Western-Suburbs in 1970.

But it would be another 35 years before the clubs first met in a Grand Final.

While Hornby was a perennial contender – qualifying for 13 grand finals from 1982-2001 and winning eight – Linwood’s only appearances in the three decades after those early Grand Final successes were losses in 1974 and 1995.

The crosstown rivals simultaneously emerged as premiership forces in the mid-2000s, however, and the Keas put the disappointment of two Grand Final losses in the previous three seasons (both at the hands of Riccarton Knights) and ended a 35-year title drought with a record-shattering 66-10 rout of the Panthers in the 2005 decider.

Hornby gained some revenge with a thrilling 32-28 win over Linwood in the 2006 Grand Final, though, and followed that up with a 27-20 success against the defending premier Keas in 2009.

But in 2018 Linwood became the first Canterbury club to defeat the same rival in three consecutive grand finals – Papanui’s wins over Marist-Western Suburbs in 1972-73 and Eastern Suburbs in 1976-77, and Hornby’s twin victories over Halswell in 2012-13 were the only previous instances of one club beating another in back-to-back grand finals – and set a new mark with their 2019 win over Hornby.

The Panthers have won a record 15 Pat Smith Trophy Grand Finals but set an unwanted record last year with their four straight  losses from 2016-19 (Linwood (2007-08) and Halswell (2012-13) are the only other clubs to lose back-to-back grand finals since 1990) and will be hell-bent on bagging the club’s first title in eight years by rolling the five-time defending champs on Sunday.

With all three of the teams’ 2021 clashes decided by six points or less, this Grand Final shapes as yet another Keas-Panthers classic.


2021: Major Semi-final – Linwood 14-10 Hornby @ Leslie Park
2021: Round 12: Linwood 30-24 Hornby @ Ngā Puna Wai
2021: Round 5: Hornby 14-10 Linwood @ Leslie Park
2020: Round 4: Linwood 26-10 Hornby @ Linwood Park
2019 Grand Final: Linwood 28-12 Hornby @ Ngā Puna Wai
2019: Major Semi-final – Linwood 12-10 Hornby @ Linwood Park
2019: Round 10 – Linwood 20-18 Hornby @ Leslie Park
2019: Round 3 – Hornby 20-12 Linwood @ Linwood Park
2018: Round 8 – Linwood 23-16 Hornby @ Linwood Park
2018: Round 1 – Linwood 20-12 Hornby @ Leslie Park
2017: Grand Final – Linwood 34-20 Hornby @ Linfield Park
2017: Major Semi-final – Hornby 22-14 Linwood @ Murphy Park
2017: Round 8 – Linwood 14-8 Hornby @ Linwood Park
2017: Round 1 – Hornby 38-12 Linwood @ Branston Park
2016: Grand Final – Linwood 29-10 Hornby @ AMI Stadium
2016: Major Semi-final – Linwood 18-12 Hornby @ Wainoni Park
2016: Round 13 – Hornby 28-16 Linwood @ Leslie Park
2016: Round 6 – Linwood 30-16 Hornby @ Linwood Park
2015: Round 12 – Hornby 44-24 Linwood @ Leslie Park


2019: Linwood Keas 28 (Alani Kakoi, Ben Ilalio, Matt Sauni, Daniel Hartley, Alex Todd tries; Hartley 4 goals) defeated Hornby Panthers 12 (Tauvale Tauvale, Rulon Nutira tries; James Baxendale 2 goals)

2018: Linwood Keas 20 (Daniel Hartley, Toi Sepuloni, Erwin Sauni, Alex Todd tries; Hartley 2 goals) Hornby Panthers 16 (Pesini Tavake, Corey Lawrie, Charlie Charlie tries; James Baxendale 3 goals)

2017: Linwood Keas 34 (A Kakoi, E Sauni, M Nicholls-Cane, J Purcell-Mika, D Latu, W Yeow, J Fidow-Kele tries; T Sepuloni 2, Purcell-Mika goals) defeated Hornby Panthers 20 (C Eric, T Arona, W Tafua, T Tauvale tries; C Smith 2 goals)

2016: Linwood Keas 29 (W Yeow, D Hartley, M Sauni, Toi Sepuloni, M Nicholls-Cane tries; Hartley 4 goals; Hartley field goal) defeated Hornby Panthers 10 (T Tauvale, S Karena tries; J Baxendale goal)

2009: Hornby Panthers 27 (J Manning, M Paunga, T Aua-vaa, J Baxendale, C Smith tries; Baxendale 3 goals) defeated Linwood Keas 20 (J Aranga, T Tangiiti, A Todd, K Ferris tires; Tangiiti, Todd goals)

2006: Hornby Panthers 32 (R Hanson, S Wallace, J Baxendale, C Smith, C Thomas, M Deane tries; Baxendale 4 goals) defeated Linwood Keas 28 (N Horgan, K Warbrick, C Rastrick, T Tuli, C Hatcher; Warbrick 4 goals)

2005: Linwood Keas 66 (P McDonald 3, Chris Bamford 2, M Emslie, L Boyd, N Tuli, J soli, M Coe, Kyle Leka; Boyd 11 goals) defeated Hornby Panthers 10 (O Motoi, C Smith tries; J Baxendale goal)

Linwood Keas 20 v 16 Hornby Panthers
CRFL  Grand Final 2018
26 August 2018
Addington Stadium, Christchurch
Photo Kevin Clarke CMGSPORT
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