CRL 2023: FINALS WEEK 1 WRAP
Playoffs experience came to the fore as Linwood Keas’ CRL Men’s Premiership and ISC Canterbury Cup sides defeated the minor premiers of the respective grades on a dramatic opening day of the 2023 finals series.
The Keas snared the first spot in the Pat Smith Trophy Grand Final via a 21-20 eclipse of archrivals Hornby Panthers at Leslie Park.
The Panthers, who finished four points clear at the top of the Massetti Cup ladder and won the teams’ last two encounters, trailed 10-4 at halftime but posted the first two tries of the second stanza. The Keas rallied to lead 20-14 before the home side struck back to square up the qualifying final at 20-all.
With extra-time looming, veteran Linwood half Daniel Hartley snapped the winning field goal in the dying stages to send the club into a ninth straight decider.
The Panthers get another bite of the cherry next Saturday in the preliminary final against Halswell Hornets, who outlasted Eastern Eagles 20-16 in the elimination final.
The third-placed Hornets led 10-6 at the break at Halswell Domain and managed to keep the plucky Eagles at arm’s length in a hard-fought second half.
Halswell is chasing its first grand final appearance since 2014.
Greymouth Greyhounds’ outstanding ISC Canterbury Cup campaign ended in heartbreak, going down 18-12 to fourth-placed Linwood Keas at Wingham Park.
The ladder-leading Greyhounds lost just one match during the regular season but were foiled by a huge defensive effort from the Keas, who led 8-6 at halftime and scored two tries to one in the second half.
The Keas will line up on CRL Grand Final Day against Ashburton Barbarians, who overturned a 14-6 halftime deficit at Robilliard Park to beat Hornby Panthers 20-14 and clinch a historic appearance in the Premier Reserves decider.
Meanwhile, Riccarton Knights overwhelmed Shirley Hawks 48-28 in Saturday’s Division One semi-final, earning a Grand Final Day showdown with first-placed Papanui Tigers in two weeks’ time.
The final regular season round of CRL Women’s Premiership matches saw Eastern Eagles grab their first win of the season, 22-16 over Burnham Chevaliers at Coronation Park.
Woolston Rams finished the home-and-away with a flourish, defeating Sydenham Swans 36-16 at Woolston Park. This weekend’s semi-finals will decide who lines up in the 2023 decider.
2023 CRL MEN’S PREMIERSHIP – FINALS WEEK 1
QUALIFYING FINAL: Linwood Keas 21 (Elijah Tuhura 2, Daniel Hartley, Kyle Amer tries; Hartley 2 goals; Hartley field goal) defeated Hornby Panthers 20 (Christian Fetu, Tevin Arona, James Baxendale, Denis Davey tries; Arona 2 goals) at Leslie Park
ELIMINATION FINAL: Halswell Hornets 20 defeated Eastern Eagles 16 at Halswell Domain
2023 CRL PREMIER RESERVES – ISC CANTERBURY CUP SEMI-FINALS
Linwood Keas 18 defeated Greymouth Greyhounds 12 at Wingham Park
Ashburton Barbarians 20 defeated Hornby Panthers 14 at Robilliard Park
2023 CRL DIVISION ONE – SEMI-FINALS
Riccarton Knights 48 defeated Shirley Hawks 28 at Crosbie Park
2023 CRL WOMEN’S PREMIERSHIP – ROUND 15
Eastern Eagles 22 defeated Burnham Chevaliers 16 at Wainoni Park
Woolston Rams 36 defeated Sydenham Swans 16 at Woolston Park
Linwood Keas BYE
Photo Credit: Abraham Atherton Photography