FLASHBACK FRIDAY: BULLDOGS OUTLAST KEAS FOR MAIDEN TITLE
It’s been a tough 2023 Massetti Cup campaign so far for Northern Bulldogs, but they’ll be up for the daunting battle against defending champs Linwood Keas at Ngā Puna Wai in Saturday’s Magic Round. Flashback Friday revisits the blue-and-whites’ historic 2007 premiership triumph, when these clubs met in the Pat Smith Trophy grand final.
Kaiapoi fielded a team in 1923 but disbanded after one season. Returning in 1964, Kaiapoi featured in the CRL premiership until 1989 before another hiatus. Kaiapoi Bulldogs returned again in 2002 and reached a watershed grand final the following season – going down to Halswell Hornets in a 16-14 thriller – but four years the Murphy Park outfit finally saluted for the first time.
The club became Northern Bulldogs in 2010, a year marked by their arduous rebuild challenges in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. The Bulldogs have played in one grand final since – another epic against the Keas in 2020, where they were gallant in a 16-10 loss.
Their breakthrough 16 years ago, however, remains a vivid, brilliant memory for all Bulldogs diehards.
Tony Smith – The Press – August 27, 2007
A barrage of barks from blue-bedecked supporters saluted the Kaiapoi Bulldogs as they exorcised a demon to win their first Canterbury rugby league premiership in their 50th jubilee year.
Kaiapoi atoned for a last-second loss in its only previous grand final appearance in 2003 when the Bulldogs blitzed the Linwood Keas 28-14 yesterday to snatch the Pat Smith Challenge Trophy at Rugby League Park.
The brave Bulldogs had to play the last 25 minutes of a lively final with 12 men after former Canterbury front-rower Mathias Pitama was sent off for a second high shot. Pitama had to run a gauntlet of gloating Keas fans among the 2500-strong crowd.
But Kaiapoi coach Stewart Mee believed the banishment only served to inspire his men. ‘‘The best thing (referee Adam Burns) could have done was send him off . . . it made our guys go harder.’’
Kaiapoi’s signature song is Who Let the Dogs Out? But the refrain among Keas fans was ‘‘Who let the Dogs in?’’ after Linwood could not press home its extra-man advantage. In the frenetic finale, the Keas scored one slick try to centre Alex Davis while Kaiapoi dotted down twice through Anthony Curd and substitute centre Ben Creagh.
Inspirational Bulldogs skipper Kyle Reuben said it ‘‘began to feel like the (2003) Halswell game again’’. ‘‘But we’ve got a great bunch of guys and they dug deep.’’
He knew the premiership crown was Kaiapoi’s after Creagh’s coup-de-grace in the final minute.
Reuben was proud that his side, which boasted the best defensive record in 2007, had ‘‘erased the memory’’ of the earlier grand final defeat and had also delivered the club the perfect 50th birthday present.
He emphasised that the victory was dedicated to ‘‘‘our people who aren’t around to share it with us today’’, including parents and supporters who had passed away.
Mee— the first recipient of the Coffey Cup for the winning grand final coach— hailed the ‘‘awesome effort of everyone out there’’ and said Kaiapoi’s travelling band of fans ‘‘must have outnumbered (Linwood) three to one’’.
A cavalcade of cars and buses journeyed from the North Canterbury township and blue-and-white balloons were fixed to lamp-posts along the Main North Road.
Kaiapoi prop and try-scorer Jason Bamford won the man of the match award, earning bragging rights over big brother
Kaiapoi Bulldogs Duane Wineti, left, Ben Creagh and Sam Brown celebrate Creagh’s match-clinching try in the Canterbury club grand final at Rugby League Park yesterday. Kaiapoi won 28-14. Photo: Kirk Hargreaves Chris, the Linwood second-rower.
Fellow front-rower Aja Roberts and ex-Bulls backrowers Ross Turi and Blake Milner were equally effective in the Kaiapoi pack.
The Reuben brothers, Kyle and Josh, were also to the fore, Sam Brown was sensational in the centres and 40-year-old wing Allan Couch never shirked his work.
But the Bulldogs’ main man was quicksilver half Duane Wineti, who energised the attack.
Kaiapoi had a creative edge throughout, switching play and running the big Linwood pack, led by Damian Horgan, Teni Tuli and Kane Ferris, off their feet.
Linwood— which has played in five of the last six finals for one win and four defeats— began brightly with a fifth-minute try to wing Phil Wahnig after smart work by Mark Coe.
But Kaiapoi grabbed the lead when Bamford bullocked over and Wineti kicked the first of six goals.
The Bulldogs lost interchange forward Tony Bennett to the sin-bin for a high tackle and Linwood capitalised with a try in the left-hand corner to wing John Aranga. But Kaiapoi’s capacity to recover from setbacks was shown when Brown scampered over from a scrum set move to give the Bulldogs a 14-10 half-time lead.
Pitama was sent to the sinbin early in the second spell after Linwood fullback Carl Hatcher was dazed in a reckless tackle. But Ferris followed later for a high shot on Wineti.
Pitama had only been back on the field a matter of seconds before he got his marching orders from referee Burns. His first tackle was thunderous but fair but his second was high and left the referee little option.
Davis scored for the Keas in the 60th minute but Curd made it 22-14 after Brown created indecision in the Linwood defensive line.
With Milner and Turi tackling like demons, Kaiapoi snuffed out any hope of a Keas comeback.
2007 CRL MEN’S PREMIERSHIP GRAND FINAL
Kaiapoi Bulldogs 28 (Jason Bamford, Sam Brown, Anthony Curd, Ben Creagh tries; Duane Wineti 6 goals) d Linwood Keas 14 (Phil Wahnig, John Aranga, Alex Davis tries; Kodi Warbrick goal). Referee: Adam Burns.