Kia Ora hold off Lin­ton in league fi­nal

The Tribune (NZ) - - TERRACE END - GE­ORGE HEAGNEY

The Lin­ton Co­bras did ev­ery­thing they could to knock over favourites the Kia Ora War­riors in the club rugby league grand fi­nal, but to no avail.

Kia Ora won Satur­day’s fi­nal 40-28 at the Arena, but not af­ter get­ting a sec­ond-half scare from Lin­ton.

The War­riors have been the form team all sea­son and looked just like it in the first half, over­com­ing a hard-run­ning Lin­ton for­ward pack to be up 24-8 at half­time. But af­ter half­time Lin­ton came out fir­ing, helped by Kia Ora’s fal­ter­ing com­ple­tion rate, to level things at 24-all go­ing into the last 20 min­utes.

Kia Ora fi­nally woke up in the fi­nal stages and grabbed three late tries to seal their first ti­tle win since 2008.

Kia Ora coach Peter Butler said he was happy they were given a good test, in a sea­son where the com­pe­ti­tion’s depth has been poor.

Lin­ton coach Ray Warner said it was a game of two halves, but they made too many er­rors in the first spell.

Kia Ora only scored one more try than Lin­ton with seven, but it was the al­most-per­fect boot of Kia Ora stand­off Tay­lor Hai­mona that kept them in front. Hai­mona kicked six from seven con­ver­sions, a lot of them hard kicks, and the only one he missed hit the post.

Lin­ton started the game strongly, scor­ing the first try and props Pita Mar­shall and Hen­ning Petersen were mak­ing big metres. But then the Kia Ora’s de­fence tight­ened up and they started to find space as they ran in four firsthalf tries. Af­ter the break Lin­ton took ad­van­tage of Kia Ora’s lack of com­ple­tion and came storm­ing back into the game.

Kia Ora half­back Jahlon Gov­er­nor was yel­low carded for a shoul­der charge and Lin­ton scored two tries while he was off the field. But once Kia Ora were re­stored to 13 men they got things work­ing again. Lin­ton cen­tres Niko­lao Iaone, who scored a hat­trick, and Te­vita Faukafa, who grabbed a dou­ble, were both threats, break­ing the line out wide. Petersen had a mas­sive game with his strong car­ries and hooker Leo Tangi­noa was sharp.

Young prop Wes­ley Veikoso kept charg­ing all game for Kia Ora and back row­ers Johnny Ker­risk and Zane War­brick were strong in de­fence. Bench for­ward Daniel Ti­moti made a big im­pact.

Kia Ora War­riors 40 (Awa­tere Ki­wara 2, Tay­lor Hai­mona, Corey Gov­er­nor, Pare Tapi­ata, Zane War­brick, Hoeata MaxwellBlake, tries; Hai­mona 6 con) Lin­ton Co­bras 28 (Niko­lao Ioane 3, Te­vita Faukafa 2, Solo­mua Fale­mai, tries; Ioane con, Hay­den Lovie con) HT: 24-8.

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/STUFF

Lin­ton Co­bras cen­tre Nikalao Ioane, cen­tre, charges into the Kia Ora War­riors de­fence dur­ing the club rugby league fi­nal.

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