KEAS SNATCH TITLE FROM PANTHERS IN STUNNING GF FINISH
Linwood Keas regained Canterbury Rugby League supremacy on Sunday with an epic 34-30 victory over defending champs Hornby Panthers, with Penitito Ilalio etching his name into grand final folklore courtesy of a phenomenal 50-metre solo match-winner in the dying seconds.
The Keas reeled in a 12-point halftime deficit to lead 24-18, but the Panthers appeared on course for back-to-back titles after scoring two unanswered tries to regain the advantage 30-24.
Winger Vaione Siaki opened the Pat Smith Trophy grand final scoring for Hornby with a 15th-minute try.
Linwood responded when George Faaiva crashed over from close range, but converted tries to Charlie Charlie and Christian Fetu put Hornby in control 18-6 at halftime.
Iuma Mulitalo’s Keas came out firing after the break, scoring three tries in first 11 minutes of the second stanza to snare a six-point advantage.
But Eti Collins levelled the scores via a try from a kick, before Panthers fullback Muipu Nati scorched in for a brilliant 30-metre individual try.
The Keas set up a grandstand finish via an unconverted try with 14 minutes to go.
The Panthers defended desperately through the closing stages and had one hand on the Pat Smith Trophy, until wing powerhouse Ilalio cut through on halfway and produced another dazzling sidestep to get around Nati and streak away for a spectacular try that set off Keas celebrations on-field and in the crowd for the club’s sixth premiership in seven years.
For the Panthers, it was an absolute heart-breaker after a gallant performance – and especially poignant in Jed Lawrie’s final game as coach.
Linwood second Uriah Tuli won the Mel Cooke Trophy as player of the match.
Relive one of the great CRL grand finals in the video below.