FLASHBACK FRIDAY: LOCKE’S MIRACLE FINISH IN CHRISTCHURCH
The on-fire New Zealand Warriors host South Sydney Rabbitohs at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium tonight – and fans are bracing for a cold, wet and windy night in Auckland. But conditions in the City of Sails are set to be relatively tropical in comparison to arguably the most iconic NRL match played in Christchurch.
Flashback Friday relives that encounter, which unfolded 13 years ago this week. The thermometer failed to make it out of single digits but a thrilling clash concluded with one of the all-time great buzzer-beating finishes.
A bumper crowd of 20,271 – a Christchurch record for a rugby league match – defied the rainy, freezing conditions at the old Lancaster Park in Round 16 of the 2010 premiership to witness an absolute barnburner.
Towards the end of a seesawing encounter, the sixth-placed Roosters appeared certain to overwhelm the 10th-placed Warriors, leading 18-8 with five minutes to go. But a trademark powerhouse try down a narrow corridor to Manu Vatuvei kept the Warriors’ hopes alive, cutting the deficit to four points.
Young winger Kevin Locke had already scored a memorable first-half double before he toed a Lance Hohaia grubber kick ahead from near halfway in the final minute of play as the Warriors rolled the dice one last time.
Displaying electrifying pace, Locke narrowly won the race to the ball ahead of Roosters speedster Phil Graham and planted the ball as his torso was simultaneously bent around the goalpost in a punishing collision.
Replays showed Locke had successfully scored the gutsy leveller, while James Maloney added the simple conversion after the siren to win an unforgettable game 20-18.
“He only had eyes for the ball,” coach Ivan Cleary marvelled post-match.
“It was just set up, wasn’t it, as one of those moments? The last play of the game, goalposts in the way and he was only thinking about the football.
“You’ve got to love it when the players play like that.”
Locke’s bravery cost him two weeks in the injury ward, but earned a place in club folklore.
Kevin Locke puts his body on the line ploughing into the goalposts to score the match-winner against the Roosters in Christchurch 💪@ChemistWhouse bringing you 25 Warrior Moments from across our 25-season history #WeAreWarriors pic.twitter.com/23AxfiyGxv
— One NZ Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 10, 2019
In his 2014 book The Book of NRL Lists, Canterbury Rugby League media liaison Will Evans (co-authored with Nick Tedeschi) rated the last-ditch effort at No.7 in the list of ‘Regular Season Miracle Finishes’.
Riccarton Knights junior and former Canterbury representative Lewis Brown featured in the second-row for the Warriors that day. The Warriors and Roosters finished 2010 placed fifth and sixth respectively, but the Warriors were bounced out in the first week of the playoffs while the Roosters went all the way to the grand final, where they went down to St George Illawarra.
PREMIERSHIP MATCHES IN CHRISTCHURCH
Round 11, 1996: Balmain Tigers 34 d Auckland Warriors 22 at Lancaster Park. Crowd: 10,000
Round 14, 2004: Wests Tigers 50 d New Zealand Warriors 4 at Lancaster Park. Crowd: 16,221
Round 5, 2005: Wests Tigers 24 d New Zealand Warriors 6 at Lancaster Park. Crowd: 18,421
Round 3, 2006: New Zealand Warriors 26 d Wests Tigers 10 at Lancaster Park. Crowd: 14,675
Round 16, 2010: New Zealand Warriors 20 d Sydney Roosters 18 at Lancaster Park. Crowd: 20,721
Round 10, 2016: Penrith Panthers 30 d New Zealand Warriors 18 at Rugby League Park. Crowd: 18,000
Round 14, 2018: New Zealand Warriors 34 d Manly Sea Eagles 14 at Rugby League Park. Crowd: 17,357
Round 3, 2019: Manly Sea Eagles 46 d New Zealand Warriors 12 at Rugby League Park. Crowd: 11,774