The Nyngan Tigers overcame a first half send-off to down the South Dubbo Raidettes in a thrilling inaugural Dubbo and District Junior Rugby League (DDJRL) league tag grand final.
The Tigers began brilliantly in the decider at Apex Oval on Saturday, shooting out to a 12-0 lead early on.
With star player Emma Teale directing traffic and keeping the Tigers in strong field position with her fine kicking game, it seemed the minor premiers would go in at half-time in a powerful position.
But late in the half, everything changed.
The Raidettes lifted and hit back through the lively Ella James minutes before half-time, and from the ensuring kick-off Payton Reynolds evaded the defence and went on a brilliant 95m run to score her side’s second try.
As the Raidettes celebrated the try, Teale was sent off for swearing at the referee.
The Tigers went into the sheds leading 12-8 but without Teale it seemed it could take something special for the Alahna Ryan-coached side to hold on.
But hold on they did, a fine second half defensive effort helping Nyngan to score a 16-12 victory.
“I’m extremely proud,” 18-year-old Ryan said after her side’s win.
“We worked so hard to get here and we got the result. The second half was so tough but the girls stuck in and tagged so well.
"That was what won it, our defence.”
The Tigers victory also showed the astute coaching nous of Ryan, impressive given her tender age.
The coaching on the day was one of the real highlights, with the Raidettes led by another youngster in Zoe Warwick.
Warwick had to deal with a number of injuries throughout the game, the most serious a thumb injury for Mariah Delany, and while the Raidettes threw everything at Nyngan, it proved not enough.
Raidettes score right on the bell but Nyngan wins! Played the entire second half a player down after early send off but still managed a 16-12 win. So much talent on show. 18-year-old coach Alahna Ryan thrilled. “I wish I was out there playing”. #DDJRLpic.twitter.com/QkGDTvQX3F— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) September 1, 2018
Tigers’ dummyhalf Bailee Griffiths was a standout, as was Rachael Forrest, but the player of the match was fullback Mia Taylor.
Taylor grew into the game and then took on a major playmaking role in the second with Teale and her kicking game missing.
Taylor was involved in the build-up to her side’s all important try in the second half, Ebony Martin scoring out wide to stretch the lead to 16-8.
The Raidettes scored a consolation try through Millah Phillips right on the bell.
Reynolds and James were two of South Dubbo’s best on the day while halves Izzy Attwater and Bindi Shaw were full of running.
Tigers coach Ryan, an exciting league tag and women’s tackle player in her own right, was thrilled to not only be a part of the win, but also part of her players’ development.
This season marked the first the DDJRL had contested a league tag competition and it had nothing but rave reviews, with even bigger numbers already being expected for next season.
“I wished I was out there but seeing them out there and getting that result, it’s amazing,” a delighted Ryan said.