Six Years and counting in timaru
A hard working Celtic side made it six Hamersley Cup grand finals wins in a row with a deserved win over Harlequins 25-15.
In the end Celtic were too good all round and Harlequins lacked the impact and direction they needed when they had the ball. Everyone in the Celtic side stood up and while it was not a faultless performance they showed the courage and cohesion when it was needed and were sublime in defence.
Several players stood out for the champions. Halfback Sekope Maea impressed with everything he did and directed play especially well. Midfielders Patola Tupuola and Tevita Latu defended extremely well and kept their opposites quiet. Captain Nick Strachan was superb at the breakdown while fellow loose forwards Kali Latu and Tom Fleming also had big games. Lock Matt Stewart was excellent in the lineout and around the paddock, while Jason Rooney was accurate throwing in to the lineout.
Harlequins were good in the set pieces but outgunned elsewhere and didn't have the impact out wide. Losing stalwart Scott Norton from first five at half time didn't help.
Wing Maile I'Ongi tried hard but often just had too many defenders to beat while No 8 Teki Veikune had a huge work rate. Nathan Tubb tried to motivate his team but they did not respond in the manner he would have liked.
Captain Strachan said the sudden death of team-mate Jimmy Bown was a big motivating factor for the team.
"He was in our hearts and we got over the line for him."
Strachan said it was important to get the lead as Harlequins could be dangerous.
"From there we gutsed it out and I am proud of the boys."
Harlequins skipper Tubb said Celtic were just too good on the day.
"We just made too many errors, we had enough ball but just didn't do enough with it."
Celtic started with a penalty to Hamish Strachan but Harlequins grabbed the lead after Hau Kaumatule scored on the back of a good break by I'Ongi and open side Sam Vea.
With 10 minutes left in the first half Kali Latu was yellow carded for slowing the ball down and Norton landed the penalty to give Harlequins a handy 10-3 lead.
Harlequins then excited their fans when the forwards led an interchange of clever passing from their own 10m line but fell 10m short when the ball was lost forward.
From then however despite being a man down Celtic roared into Harlequins with two quick tries.
The first was after left wing Jarrod Mannex made a good run and then Celtic spread the ball wide for centre Tevita Latu to score.
Blindside Tom Fleming then went over after Celtic opted for a lineout rather than a shot at goal, and Celtic were suddenly up 15-10 at the break and looking good.
The defending champions started the second half like the end of the first, with a good barging run from the front rowers and then a clever in-pass from Maea found Rooney who barged his way over.
Strachan converted and then landed a penalty, for a 25-10 lead, after Harlequins lock Tui Tauelangi was yellowed carded for hair pulling on Mannex.
From there the game meandered somewhat with neither side looking like scoring but Celtic defence had Harlequins going sideways.
With just over 10 minutes left Fetu was the third player to spend time in the sinbin for killing the ball.
Harlequins then scored a consolation try to Vea but by then it was all over.
Coach Nigel Walsh was very proud of his side's effort and delighted for them.
"I thought our mental attitude was right going in which was important. The forward pack was strong and Patola and Rooster's (Tevita Latu) defence stood-up."
Walsh said it had been a hard year, after the sudden death of hooker Jimmy Bown.
"The boys were certainly playing for him."