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North Canterbury Division 1 Final
Kaiapoi scored a stunning last-minute try to beat Oxford 27-22 in a gripping PGG Wrightson Trophy Final at Rangiora recently.
This was one of the most exciting finals in the history of the North Canterbury senior competition. Oxford led 22-20 with only seconds remaining although a stunning try to loose forward and vice-captain Kitt Taylor earned Kaiapoi the title.
Kaiapoi perhaps had more momentum going into the final. They had finished third in the PGG Wrightson Combined Country competition, had drawn with Oxford and had beaten Glenmark in the North Canterbury competition itself. This had the potential to be their year.
Kaiapoi coach Rob Van Keulen says that his side was determined to go onto the field and win the final rather than make up the numbers. “We knew that Oxford won the final last season and had that experience. We had to go out there and make sure we came off with no ‘what ifs’.
While Kaiapoi was strong in the first half and went into the break with a 11-7 lead, Oxford stormed back in the second half. “They got hold of the ball and were strong around the fringes. They made us defend a lot.” Crucial in this regard was Oxford number eight Stu Dalzell who had a storming game for the 2009 winners.
Oxford got themselves to 22-20 with only seconds remaining thanks to constant pressure and a try to flanker Will Sellwood. Then Kitt Taylor stepped up and scored in the left-hand corner after good work by the impressive Ricky Kennett and Taunia MacDonald.
“No side really deserved to lose and when we were down by two points with seconds remaining I thought to myself that if we lost it would be sad as we hadn’t really deserved to lose,” Rob says.
Kitt Taylor may have been the hero for Kaiapoi, although there were many stars. Perhaps the best for the Gold and Blues all season has been flanker Matt Etheredge, who was again outstanding in the final.
It was Kaiapoi's first PGG Wrightson Trophy triumph since 2006 and terrific reward for a side that has been one of the most improved in Country rugby.
“As you would expect we were ecstatic with the win and the way that it happened,” Rob says. “These guys are a wonderful group and they have worked extremely hard throughout the season and developed a really strong work ethic.”
Rob says that while it is the wrong time to contemplate what will happen next season, he says that he will be back along with most of the squad. “The challenge will obviously be to go a couple of steps further in the PGG Wrightson Combined Country competition itself although right now we are still enjoying this win.”
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