Illawarra ends Hunter’s 17-year reign, Central West finishes third after thrilling draws

PLAYMAKER: Central West five-eighth Kenesha Stevens and her side finished third at last weekend's country championship. Photo: MATT FINDLAY
PLAYMAKER: Central West five-eighth Kenesha Stevens and her side finished third at last weekend's country championship. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

Illawarra ended Hunter's 17-year reign at last weekend’s NSW Country Rugby Union Women’s Championship at Campbelltown, while Central West produced an excellent effort to finish third, although two thrilling draws cost the Blue Bulls a chance at glory.

With just four zones contesting the 2018 15-a-side title, this year’s edition was played as a first-past-the-post tournament, Illawarra claiming the championship courtesy of two wins and, incredibly, a 0-0 draw against Hunter.

Central West opened its campaign against Mid North Coast and took a 5-0 lead early, before the latter side hit back to lock the game up at half-time.

The Blue Bulls crossed first in the second half too, but Mid North Coast hit back again, the conversion sailing wide and forcing both sides to settle for a 10-10 draw.

The Blue Bulls faced the eventual champions next and the two sides traded early tries before Illawarra scored again on the back of a 20-phase movement to lead 12-5 at the break.

The Blue Bulls scored first after half-time to cut the gap to two but Illawarra scored twice in the last 10 minutes to win 22-10.

In its final game Central West faced Hunter the clash was locked at 14-14 at half-time before the Blue Bulls took a 19-14 lead. Hunter scored on the stroke of full-time, but missed the conversion, the clash finished 19-19. Bathurst Bulldogs’ Marita Shoulders was named player-of-the-tournament.