THE Newcastle Knights have overcome a gallant Northern Pride 34-28 to claim this year's Under 16 National title.
The Northern Queensland side started well, and put immense pressure on the visitors, including forcing a line drop-out, which eventually led to the first try of the afternoon with fullback Michael Carroll going over.
However, the Knights were able to hit straight back – and they did so hard – with crafty halfback Brendan O’Hagan scoring two tries and centre Heath Gibbs one, as the visitors seemingly took control of the match with three straight four-pointers.
In another twist – the Pride then went on a roll of their own, with winger Dion Wales, Kornylius Tuimauga and Brett Anderson all crossing in quick succession.
It was great first half comeback for Pride who took a 22-16 into the halftime break.
Things started well for the Pride in the second half and they forced a drop-out – but were unable to capitalise.
It didn’t seem to matter too much however, and soon after Anderson was able to get his second after some good work off the bench from Quinlyn Cannon. The conversion was successful and the Pride went out to a 28-16 lead.
O’Hagan however had other ideas – with the man of the match putting through a grubber kick was pounced on by winger Samuel McIntyre.
This sparked the Knights comeback with fullback Matt Cooper the next to step over the line. They were in again almost instantly, with a massive run from Kynan Blasczak in the lead-up helping Cooper get his second.
With the Knights now leading 30-28 and under nine minutes remaining – the Pride tried to wrest back the momentum – but made too many errors, with Newcastle extending their lead to 34-28 after taking a penalty kick from right in front.
The crowd were treated to an exciting final few moments with the Pride attempting a short kick-off and almost pulling it off with skipper Jake Clifford chasing after the ball – but to no avail.
Despite the loss, the Pride can still be proud of their season where they won a state final in their first ever attempt.
National Under 16 Final:
Saturday 17 May
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 34 (Matt Cooper 2, Brendan O’Hagan 2, Heath Gibbs, Samuel McIntyre tries; Brendan O’Hagan 5 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 28 (Brett Anderson 2, Michael Carroll, Dion Wales, Kornylius Tuimauga tries; Jake Clifford 4 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville.
Man of the Match: Brendan O’Hagan (Newcastle Knights)
Photo: Steve Bell