KEAS CLINCH BACK-TO-BACK WOMEN’S TRIUMPHS OVER GALLANT SWANS
Linwood Keas have retained the CRL Women’s Premiership courtesy of a 22-20 Grand Final victory over a valiant Sydenham Swans outfit – the same scoreline that split the rivals in the 2022 decider.
The match finished five tries apiece, with the Swans fighting back from eight-point deficits on multiple occasions to take it down to the wire.
After a bruising opening 15 minutes, Linwood five-eighth Terauoriwa Gapper muscled over the first try of the decider before Sui Pauaraisa double the defending champs’ advantage when she strolled over.
Isabella Waterman put the Swans on the board with an impressive four-pointer, but the Keas regained the momentum – and a 12-4 lead – when slick backline passing saw Azaria Molioo dive over in the corner.
Sydenham struck a vital blow on the stroke of halftime, with front-rower Janaya Mata roving out wide and barging her way over to cut the deficit at the break to four points.
The Swans struck first in the second half, young gun fullback Manea Waaka slicing through to level the scores.
The Keas regrouped with a try to classy fullback Saiuai Pau but couldn’t capitalise on a couple of subsequent opportunities, after which Swans prop Harmony Simaile barged her way over for 16-all.
Windy conditions caused havoc for both teams’ goalkickers, but Gapper dummied her way through the Sydenham defence for a sizzling second try and converted it for a crucial six-point breaak with 13 minutes left.
The Swans set up a grandstand finish with Theresa Macpherson – who had a try ruled out seconds earlier – crossing out wide with six minutes on the timepiece.
After narrowly being denied a match-sealing try, the Keas withstood a frantic last-minute assault from the Swans, clinching the trophy when they shut down a sizzling break from halfback Kyla Lynch-Brown.
As she did in 2018, the industrious, dynamic Pauaraisa was named player of the Grand Final.
CRL WOMEN’S PREMIERSHIP GRAND FINAL: Linwood 22 (Terauoriwa Gapper 2, Sui Pauaraisa, Azaria Molioo, Saiuai Pau tries; Gapper goal) defeated Sydenham Swans 20 (Isabella Waterman, Janaya Mata, Manea Waaka, Harmony Simaile, Theresa MacPherson tries) at at Ngā Puna Wai.