U14s Rep Side win NSW Country Championships

Illawarra - U14 NSW Country ChampionshipsThe Illawarra under 14s have won a third straight Country Championships in gale force conditions at Newcastle.

Illawarra started their campaign strongly with a comprehensive 77 - nil win over New England on day 1. Game 2 saw a spirited Mid North Coast “axe men” (as they are known) test the young Illawarra defences with many strong attacking raids. Illawarra held strong and with a fine display of controlled pocession tries and points mounted quickly ending in a 34 - nil score line. The 3rd and final day 1 game saw Illawarra up against fellow undefeated pool 1 contenders Far North Coast. An uncharacteristic mistake riddled start from the young Illawarriors followed with pushed passes, poor options and a breached try line having a few Illawarra parents nervous for the first time at the tournament. Four unconverted Illawarra tries coming more from individual efforts than anything out of the team’s playbook had the score at the final whistle 20 – 7 in favour of the Illawarra team.

A well-rested and focused Illawarra team arrived Sunday morning with the stern words of the coaches still ringing in their ears. A semi final match up with traditional heavy weights Central Coast was now all that stood between Illawarra and a place in the final. The semi final started with 9 phases of controlled possession from the kick off resulting in the first of 8 Illawarra tries in what turned out to be a one sided 44 - nil win.

Meanwhile in pool 2 Illawarra’s last year’s final opponents Hunter, full of new recruits were racking up big scores and quietly going about the business of building momentum. Many astute observers were tipping Hunter to bring Illawarra’s undefeated 3-year run to an end in front of a large contingent of Hunter’s home crowd. Hunter started the final with a strong wind at their back and played with great skill and commitment testing Illawarra’s defence constantly in the opening 5 minutes. Illawarra continued to repel the big and athletic opposition threats across the park time and time again. Once finally in possession of the ball Illawarra proceeded to put together an almost flawless display of running rugby and set play dominance with in 4 unanswered first half tries and a 26 to nil half time lead. The second half started well for the Hunter team with an early try offering some hope to the home team crowd but it was short lived as another 2 unconverted tries dashed any hopes of a Hunter come back.

Twelve Illawarra players were selected to now go on to represent NSW Country. Congratulations to Bailey Antrobus, Joseph Dickson, Cian Duffy, Sesi Lufe, Kurtis Morrin, Rua Ngati, Henry Puhotau, Netane Talanoa, Terence To’omatta, JoshTuaili, Will Valevatu and Brett Wellington. Special mention goes to Joseph Dickson who was awarded Best Forward at the Championships, well done.

The team will now prepare to defend their State Championship title in Orange on the June Long Weekend with a series of trials against Gordon and ACT on the 18th May.

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