KEAS OUT TO THWART SWANS’ PREMIERSHIP THREE-PEAT
Sydenham Swans are gearing up for a historic three-peat in the CRL Women’s Premiership grand final on Sunday – but table-topping Linwood Keas represent a serious roadblock to the feat in what is shaping as an epic climax to the 2022 season.
The Swans carved out emphatic grand final wins over Woolston Rams in the COVID-impacted 2020 (46-16) and 2021 (36-12) seasons.
The Keas broke Papanui Tigers’ long-running dominance in the Canterbury women’s competition in an absolute classic grand final at Rugby League Park in 2018, before going down to Burnham Chevaliers in the 2019 decider.
Iuma Mulitalo’s Linwood side has been the standout team throughout 2022, losing just one game in collecting the minor premiership. Kodi Warbrick-coached Sydenham landed third with a 5-3 regular-season record.
Two tries from Dayna Napa helped the Swans overcome the Rams 26-18 in a hard-fought semi-final. The Keas had a smoother sudden-death passage courtesy of a 34-4 defeat of fourth-placed Chevaliers, Katey Arona crossing for a double.
The teams’ two regular-season clashes suggest Sunday’s decider will be an absolute cliff-hanger. The Swans grabbed a 20-18 victory in May – while Linwood’s only defeat so far in 2022 – while the Keas responded with a 26-20 win in early-July.
Both teams are stacked with game-breakers and premiership-winning experience.
The Keas will be relying on Arona, Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa rep Sui Pauaraisa – the player of the match in the club’s 2018 triumph – and Angelo Petero to set the tempo and provide leadership.
The Swans’ gameplan is likely to revolve around brilliant playmaker Charntay Poko – described by opposition coach Mulitalo as the best player in Canterbury – and fellow Kiwi Ferns rep Bunty Kuruwaka-Crowe, who was player of the match in the 2020-21 grand final successes.
Vicki Logopati-Campbell, a Kiwi Fern in 2000 but still one of the most dynamic players in the 2018 grand final for Papanui, provides a wealth of experience to Sydenham’s cause, while strike will come from the likes of Napa.
Linwood Keas and Sydenham Swans line up in the 2022 CRL Women’s Premiership grand final at Ngā Puna Wai, kicking off at 12.30pm.