Kiwi Ferns to the fore in Papanui's women's rugby league grand final triumph
Kiwi Ferns star Corinna Whiley grabbed a try scoring double as the Papanui Tigers clinched back-to-back Canterbury Rugby League women's premiership triumphs.
The Tigers celebrated a 34-20 win over the Linwood Keas in an entertaining grand final at Linfield Park on Sunday.
The Keas were gutsy in defeat, but the Tigers' edge in experience and class – led by Whiley and fellow Kiwi Fern Bunty Kuruwaka-Crowe – was telling in the eight-tries-to-four result.
Strapping centre Whiley was a standout recipient of the player of the match award, using her pace and power to bag two tries and lay on another.
Elusive Tigers fullback Stacey Hildreth – a Ferns World Cup training squad member – also notched an eye-catching double.
The Tigers led 12-4 at halftime but a flying start to the second stanza put the match out of the Keas' reach.
"Personally I'm happy with how I went, but I'm also really proud of the team," Whiley said.
"Coming in as favourites really put a lot of pressure on the girls, and I think it showed in the first half but our experience came through in the second half, which got us that win."
The Keas repelled the Tigers' early attacking forays with some outstanding goal-line defence, but struggled to build any pressure with the ball themselves. The defending champs hit the scoreboard first midway through the first half when halfback Charntay Poko barged through from close range.
The underdog Keas struck back, however, with five-eighth Cassie Siataga crashing over for the equaliser.
Papanui landed two critical blows before halftime to power to a 12-4 lead, hooker Kadison Robertson zipping over from dummy-half before Whiley producing a searing 30-metre solo effort.
The Tigers pushed further clear soon after the break when Hildreth latched onto an inch-perfect cross-field kick from Poko to score a spectacular try.
The Keas pegged the deficit back to eight points through Easter Savelio's determined four-pointer, but Whiley set up diminutive winger Michelle Wang for a swift reply out wide and blazed over for her second to put the Tigers firmly in control at 24-8.
Keas supersub Savelio and quicksilver Tigers No.1 Hildreth each scored their second tries in quick succession, before Jerusha Whiley got on the scoresheet with a barnstorming run to extend the Tigers' advantage to 34-14.
The gutsy Keas had the last say, with another World Cup training squad member, Sui Pauaraisa, grabbing their fourth try.
At a glance
Papanui Tigers 34 (Corrina Whiley 2, Stacey Hildreth 2, Charntay Poko, Kadison Robertson, Michell Wang, Jerusha Whiley tries; Poko goal) defeated Linwood Keas 20 (Easter Savelio 2, Cassie Siataga, Sui Pauaraisa tries; Siataga 2 goals). HT: 12-4. Referee: Owen Harvey. Player of the match: Corinna Whiley (Papanui).