The old adage that wet weather is a great leveller was again shown as the Hornby Panthers atoned for a 30-point loss to the Halswell Hornets, a Corey Lawrie field goal earning them a 19-18 extra time victory in yesterday's grand final at AMI Stadium.
The Panthers entered the match as unbackable underdogs after Halswell, the runaway minor premiers, tore their defence to shreds in the major semi two weeks ago. But in torrential rain Hornby found a way to grind out their third premiership in four years and their sixth win from 10 grand final clashes with the Hornets.
Lawrie couldn't hide his excitement after he nailed the decisive field goal in the final minute of extra time from 25m.
"We got a quick play the ball and I was sick of Baxy missing all the kicks so I thought, ‘stuff it and let's take one'," he said.
"They [Halswell] are untouchable supposedly but we beat them fair and square today and showed them they are dominant in their own words.
"There's nothing better than playing Halswell in a grand final and beating them and we were outstanding on defence today and deserved our victory."
Hornets' interchange forward Ross Martin said Hornby got a psychological edge late in the first half and they couldn't re-exert their dominance.
"I think they got a bit of their customary Hornby niggle going and it put us off our game a wee bit and unfortunately they got right back in it," he said.
"We have no complaints. Good luck to Hornby. They were the best team on the day and deserved their win."
Halswell flew out of the blocks with early tries to Jesse Rogers and Manu Weepu but Hornby hit back, with the help of five consecutive penalties, through Lawrie to carry the momentum into halftime at 12-6.
The Panthers levelled early in the second half when Lisiate Ofa crashed over following a Halswell error 10 metres out before a James Baxendale penalty put his side in front for the first time.
As the defending champions, Halswell hit back soon after when Toi Sepuloni slid across in a two-man tackle which Jimmy Lim converted to give them an 18-14 buffer.
Hornby were gifted another opportunity when Halswell made an error deep in their red zone and Baxendale crossed out wide with 10 minutes to go. His conversion attempt missed, forcing the game went into extra time.
Both sides had the opportunity to seal the win with penalty goals but Baxendale and Lim missed before Lawrie produced his field goal that will be remembered for years.
Pat Smith Trophy – Grand Final: Hornby Panthers 19 (Corey Lawrie, Lisiate Ofa, James Baxendale tries; Baxendale 3 goals, Lawrie field goal) beat Halswell Hornets 18 (Jesse Rogers, Manu Weepu, Toi Sepuloni tries; Jimmy Lim 3 goals) in extra time. Referee: Steve Toms. HT: 6-12. FT: 18 all. Gore Cup – Grand Final: Celebration Lions 26 (Francis Tuiletusuga 2, Reuben Tafea, Jordan Wawatai, Tama Walker tries; Kasiano Petelo 3 goals) beat Northern Bulldogs 12 (Chase Williams, Matt Clough tries; Steve Maat 2 goals) Referee: Gary Smallridge. HT: 14-6.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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