An epic. One for the ages. One of the best grand finals seen in many years.
The 2019 Group 6 Rugby League Grand Final on Sunday was all that and so much more.
But now Thirlmere Roosters are the toast of the town, following their heart-stopping 38-36 win over their local neighbours and arch-rivals Picton at Campbelltown Stadium yesterday.
The Roosters and Magpies put on a display of rugby league which left many of the 4,500 plus crowd gasping and cheering at the show before them on a perfect Spring afternoon.
Many had barely taken their seats following the national anthem when Thirlmere opened the scoring, following a long-range team try which was finished by Justin Smith.
There was just 51 seconds on the clock for the scoreboard attendant’s first action.
The Roosters then added another on five minutes when centre Josh Bryant scored, and many were in disbelief as Thirlmere led 10-0, and indeed were ahead of the clock.
Picton had barely touched the football in the opening stages, but their supporters knew their chance would come.
The tide did turn before long and the Magpies returned serve with winger Joey Peato scoring the first two of his three tries in the space of 11 minutes.
Bustling centre Nathan Davis scored between Peato’s double, as the Magpies took the lead 12-10 after 25 minutes in a frenetic start to the big dance.
The scoring didn’t slow down, as Thirlmere replied in kind, with Bryant getting his second 11 minutes before halftime.
With the Roosters in front 16-12, it appeared as though the minor premiers were again taking control.
But the Magpies didn’t read that script – Peato had his third try with five minutes left and the Magpies led 18-16.
But the final play of the first half left the majority of the crowd scratching their heads as to what they saw. With Thirlmere on the attack metres out from the Picton line, and time reaching zero, Adam Campbell didn’t pick up the ball from dummy half, but simply kicked it ahead, allowing Jake Mullaney to force the ball, and score one of the more remarkable tries ever seen on the football field.
Thirlmere led 22-18 at halftime, in one of the most amazing halves seen at this level.
Thirlmere resumed the scoring spree three minutes after play began with Allan Shipley crossing.
The scoreline sat at 26-18 for a while, before the Roosters blew the game open with two tries in a short space of time.
Shipley bagged a second and Mullaney also had a double, as Thirlmere jumped out to 38-18 lead with over 25 minutes to go.
But the Magpies weren’t done with yet.
Tries to Daniel Payne, who played arguably his best game ever in the decider, Anthony Provost, and Billy Carroll saw the score sit at 38-36 with five minutes remaining.
Both sides threw everything into the closing stages, with Picton having several chances to score the winning try, but Thirlmere’s defence was too strong, sealing a memorable win for the Roosters.
The Roosters were dynamic, and it wouldn’t be right to single out one player for praise.
Picton were also brave, and the entire team deserves mention for their efforts.
The Group 6 man of the match was Thirlmere’s captain coach Jake Mullaney, who created havoc for the Magpies all afternoon from fullback.
Mullaney was instrumental in the win and deserves praise for getting his side over the line.
Picton will be disappointed with the result, but their supporters can know the entire team was gallant.
The forwards, led by Carroll and Taulima Tautai tried their hardest, and Payne and Dengate in the halves steered them around all afternoon, but Thirlmere are deserved champions for 2019.
RESULTS – GROUP 6 RUGBY LEAGUE GRAND FINALS
First Grade – Thirlmere Roosters 38 Picton Magpies 36.
Reserve Grade – Camden Rams 14 Thirlmere Roosters 10
Under 18 – Camden Rams 38 Narellan Jets 12
Women’s League – Camden Rams 38 Thirlmere Roosters 4
Second Division – Narellan Jets 28 Campbelltown City 24
Southern Highlands Shield – Warragamba Wombats 24 Bowral Blues 8
League Tag 1 – Narellan Jets 20 Campbelltown City 0
League Tag 2 – The Oaks Tigers 4 Picton Magpies 10