MANLY MARLINS U/12s have been crowned joint NSW Junior Rugby Union State Champions after an epic 28-all draw with Western Sydney Two Blues at Camden Rugby Park
After being down 21-14 with eight minutes to play, the Marlins scored two tries to go ahead by seven points.
In the last play of the game the Two Blues hit back with a tremendous team try before their hooker Mathias Toailoa nervelessly slotted the conversion from a 45-degree angle.
Marlins coach Justin Hooker said the grand final was a “Titanic” match.
“The Two Blues coach came up to us afterwards and said it was one of the best games of rugby he’d seen this season.
“Feedback from those guys was awesome.
“It was great to watch,” Hooker said.
The Marlins went through the pool games undefeated recording convincing wins over Central North (41-7), Illawarra (36-5), Eastwood (54-7) and local rivals Warringah (24-0).
After knocking off Eastern Suburbs 31-7 in a quarter-final the Marlins recorded an empathic 55-0 victory over Northern Suburbs.
Hooker said his team showed “tremendous ticker”.
“They played against some big boys and didn’t take a backward step. They stuck to it in defence, tackled hard and just played really well.
“We’ve got a pretty talented group of kids. It made coaching them easy. We could give them a game plan and they were smart enough to do what they were asked,” Hooker said.
For Manly, captain Isaac Kasprowicz was exceptional all weekend, as was vice-captain Elijah Wulf.
A huge moment in the grand final happened in the first half when winger Angus Murray, who’d been on the end of some ‘banter’ from the sidelines, pulled off a chip and chase, got the bounce, wrong-footed the defenders and scored a brilliant try.
“Then he got up and slammed the ball down; he was so pumped,” Hooker said.
“Another great moment was going up by 7 points towards the end and all the players jumping around, as well as everyone the bench, the coaches.
“We’d been down 21-14 with about eight minutes left. To go ahead; we were very excited.”
Soon enough it was the Two Blues’ turn when they scored a fine try from a scrum, two backline movements and several rucks. .
Two Blues coach Mat Toailoa – whose son kicked the match-tying goal and whose Blacktown Scorpions have had several memorable battles with Marlins trainer Simon Kasprowicz’s Harbord Harlequins – said the grand final was “played in great spirit”.
“Both clubs can be proud of their boys.
“I’m very proud to have led a group of talented and resilient Two Blues players.
“Our boys showed great character to level the game in the dying minutes,” Toailoa said.
The Two Blues coach said there’s “always been great mutual respect between ‘Kaspa’ and myself at club level”.
“And this was reflected in the finals with a display of rugby anyone would be proud to be a part of – and watch!
“Credit to Manly, they came with a great game plan and equally had the players who could carry it out.
“I was thinking on the day, ‘I swear some of their kickers are from Super Rugby!'” Toailoa exclaimed.
Hooker paid tribute to his assistant coach Tyrone Smith for putting together the game plan, manager Marina Murray and trainer Simon Kasprowicz who “must’ve run 20 kays running water bottles on,” according to Hooker.
It was a huge Queens Birthday Long Weekend for Manly Junior Rugby with U/14 girls crowned NSW State Champions (watch this space for a story), U/16 boys Sydney Cup Champions and runners up NSW State Championship, and U/18 boys runners up in Sydney Cup and NSW State Championship.