The Celebration Lions laid down the gauntlet to their fellow top-four aspirants with a sensational defensive display in their 24-16 win over the Hornby Panthers at Leslie Park on Saturday.
The Lions repelled 10 consecutive Hornby sets on their goal line to hold on to their 14-6 halftime lead with only 11 men on the field after Kane Ferris was given his marching orders for a high shot on Panthers captain Corey Lawrie and Kasi Leka was sinbinned for repeated infringements.
Celebration prop Jonathan Lima was delighted with the defensive effort, saying there was still plenty of improvement in the team.
"Our defence was good today. All credit to the boys because we have been working hard on it," Lima said.
"We've been flying under the radar [after the 0-5 start to the year] but we still have a number of areas that we can improve," he said.
Once Leka returned from the sinbin, the Lions found themselves back down to 11 a few minutes later when Kahu Epiha was sent off in a match that threatened to boil over after several niggly incidents from both sides.
After Francis Tuiletusuga and Richie Hanson traded tries, the stage was set for a grandstand finish with the Lions on the cusp of their fifth successive win at 20-16 with three minutes to go. They sealed it when Lima produced a flick pass to fellow prop John Tafua who scored to put the Lions one point behind Hornby and Riccarton, who share third spot on the ladder.
"It comes naturally to me," Lima said of the flick pass.
"He [Tafua] is my stepbrother, so I knew he was going to be there."
Halswell were tested for the first time in weeks but showed their class to defeat the Linwood Keas 26-16 at Linwood Park after the sides were locked 12-all at halftime.
Matt Sauni scored a double while Jimmy Lim's goal kicking proved crucial as he nailed all five attempts.
Four players scored doubles as the Aranui Eagles built a three-point buffer in second spot with a 64-10 win over the Papanui Tigers at Aranui High School while Riccarton were in danger of dropping out of the top four after they lost to the Northern Bulldogs 28-26 at Crosbie Park.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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