DEFENCE wins big games of rugby league, and back in February when his side was putting in the hard pre-season yards, Cowra Magpies coach Steve Sutton knew the hard slog would pay dividends.
The Magpies collected yesterday at Wade Park, claiming this year’s Group 10 under 18s title with an 18-4 win over Orange Hawks.
The Magpies’ defence was suffocating, restricting Hawks to just the one four-pointer in the 50th minute, two blues five-eighth Keegan Harding darting down the short side to cross with the result all but in the bag.
Cowra has played Hawks three times in the last five weeks, and Harding’s try late in yesterday’s grand final with the score at 18-nil was the only time the two blues have cracked their opposition.
Sutton said “patience and our defence” was the difference.
“We’ve built our season on defence. We knew we had points in us but we knew if we could stop teams we’d go a long way,” the 2013 Group 10 under 18s Coach of the Year said.
“I think, [Cowra has conceded] 196 points in 21 games, that’s a tick over nine points a game. We’re going to win more games than we lose.”
Defence was telling in the contest.
But it was Hawks’ line that was tested early.
And in warm conditions for September footy, having spent the better part of the first 15 minutes of the grand final defending, the time without the ball sucked a lot of energy from Hawks’ players.
And Cowra was good enough to convert the pressure into points.
Dynamic fullback Aiden Craig scored his side’s first and big prop Zac Noble barged his way over to shoot the Magpies out to a 12-nil lead after 10 minutes.
Hawks worked their way back into the contest, but the score remained that way at half-time.
In the 39th minute Noble rampaged his way to a grand final double and when Kieran Murray slotted the extras from in front of the sticks, the black and whites all but secured the title with an 18-point lead.
Harding reduced the final deficit to 14 points but Cowra ran out deserved champions, with hard-working lock Simon Whatman named the 2013 Andrew Farrar Medallist with a standout performance from the back of the scrum.
“We’ve worked hard on defence, and we proved it out there,” Sutton added.
“They react to situations, don’t panic and trust each other. That’s the sort of thing you need to win these big games.”
Hawks co-coach Jared Brodrick was left to console most of his players after the contest, but praised both Cowra and his Hawks.
“We improved a hell of a lot from last year,” Brodrick said.
“Defensively, they’re too good. They’ve been the benchmark side all year and their defence is just too good. It’s like a brick wall.”
COWRA MAGPIES 18 (Zac Noble, Aiden Craig tries; Kieran Murray 3 goals) def ORANGEHAWKS 4 (Keegan Harding try).