The Newcastle Knights have won the NRLW premiership in just their second season following a convincing 32-12 defeat of Parramatta in the grand final at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
- Knights fullback Tamika Upton was awarded the Karyn Murphy Medal
- The Knights scored seven tries to two against the Eels
- They had failed to win a match in their first NRLW season
The Knights were wooden spooners in their debut NRLW campaign earlier this year, failing to win any of their five matches.
But an excellent recruiting strategy – which brought Brisbane Broncos premiership winners Millie Boyle and Tamika Upton to the Knights – and faith shown in the club’s juniors such as 17-year-old Jesse Southwell helped set up the premiership triumph.
Upton’s role in the Knights’ victory was reflected in the fullback being awarded the Karyn Murphy Medal as the player of the match.
The Knights scored seven tries to two against the Eels, who were also contesting their second NRLW season.
The Eels pulled off the upset of the season when they beat the previously undefeated Sydney Roosters in their elimination semifinal last Sunday.
They only just scrapped into the finals, with their sole win of the minor premiership coming in the final round when they beat three-time premiers Brisbane.
But the Eels were not overawed by the occasion on grand final day and they opened the scoring in the 12th minute when hooker Brooke Anderson touched down for a close-range try.
Anderson caught the Knights’ goal-line defence napping, having shaped to go right from dummy half before burrowing her way over to the left of the posts, giving Tayla Preston an easy conversion attempt from the tee.
Preston added the extras to help the Eels to an early 6-0 lead, but it did not take long for the Knights to find a response.
Camped deep inside the Eels’ half, the Knights were rewarded for their second-phase play when a brilliant Upton offload in the tackle helped create an overlap to send winger Kiana Takairangi over untouched in the right corner.
The conversion attempt was missed, however the Knights seized the lead only three minutes later via a try to Emmanita Paki.
The Knights established their 14-6 half-time lead seven minutes from the break through Romy Teitzel’s converted try.
Halfback Southwell showed off her outstanding play-making skills, taking the ball to the defensive line before executing a neat draw-and-pass move that saw second-rower Teitzel steam through a gaping hole to score.
Kirra Dibb converted to give the Knights their eight-point buffer on the scoreboard.
The Knights extended their lead to 18-6 early in the second half, with Upton crossing on the left edge.
Upton used her impressive speed to get on the outside of Preston and capitalise on the pressure the Knights had built through their attack.
Trailing by 12 points, the Eels refused to hang their heads and they struck back when captain Simaima Taufa crashed over from a quick tap for a try under the posts.
Preston converted the try to cut the Knights’ lead to 18-12.
The Eels appeared on the verge of levelling the score in the 57th minute, with Gayle Broughton touching down on an attacking kick from Preston into the in-goal area.
But the try was disallowed after Broughton was penalised for pushing Knights’ Yasmin Clydsdale in the back.
It proved to be the Eels’ final genuine scoring chance, before the Knights iced their deserved victory through late tries to Takairangi, Southwell and Clydsdale.