With a simple, effective performance perfect for wet weather, Lithgow Workies downed the Mudgee Dragons by eight points in Sunday’s decider to claim the club’s third under-18 premiership in history, breaking a 30-year title drought in the process.
Workies’ showing was uninspiring in terms of creativity or flair but their run hard, tackle hard and kick well approach bore fruit on the sodden Wade Park surface as they ran out 20-12 winners to claim their first under-18 title since 1986.
“We actually spoke about that in the lead up to the game. The last one was ‘86 and the one before that was ‘66, now we’ve got one in 2016,” Lithgow coach Graeme Osborne said.
“The boys are chuffed. They were a ragtag bunch of kids when they came together but they really gelled and got the job done.”
Osborne said he was particularly impressed with his side’s defensive effort, not just throughout the grand final but the entire season.
“I said to the boys tries and goals will win competition games but it’s defence that wins grand finals and premierships, and they defended their guts out [on Sunday],” Osborne said.
Dylan Glynn was superb at five-eighth for Workies and was duly awarded the man-of-the-match gong, while Bryon and Karl Wilson – at centre and second-row respectively – were also impressive.
Although Lithgow scored first through Pat Darlington in the ninth minute, Mudgee were the better side in the opening stages.
That try came completely against the run of play, with Mudgee dominating field position Glynn looked to kick long but aimed it straight at Dragons winger Ryan O’Conner’s chest. He split it, and Mitch Daley latched on to it before finding Darlington on his outside.
Mudgee hit back through fullback Lachlan Hill 10 minutes later, he linked with halfback Brayden Lane in a simple second-man play and found space, before converting his own try to give the Dragons a 6-4 lead.
Although the lead was slender at two points Mudgee were looking comfortable, then mistakes crept in just before the break.
A string of handling errors and then penalties born from frustration gave Glynn the chance to even the scores with a penalty goal in the 26th minute.
It swung momentum to Lithgow and Workies took full advantage, Karl Wilson shrugged off four would-be tacklers to score right on half-time. Glynn missed, and Workies took their 10-6 lead into the break.
It only took Lithgow four minutes to go in again after the break. After seven soccer kicks from three separate players across a 40 metre stretch, Bryon Wilson dived on the loose ball to score.
Glynn missed again, leaving Workies’ lead at eight.
From there, it was all Lithgow.
Mudgee continued to make silly errors and gave away a number of penalties inside their own half, gifting Workies control.
It didn’t get any better when Austin Burgess was sin-binned in the 47th minute, then Connor Legge put Riley Allan over with a great short ball, Glynn’s conversion extended Lithgow’s lead to 20-6 and put the result to bed.
Mudgee hooker Jack Beasley scored three out from full-time and Hill converted, but it was just too late.
“They just played better wet weather footy than us,” Mudgee coach Hamish Bryant said.
“It’s hugely disappointing for us, Lithgow aren’t the most skilful side in the competition but in that kind of weather, it just suits them and they took advantage of that.”
LITHGOW WORKIES 20 (Pat Darlington, Karl Wilson, Bryon Wilson, Riley Allan tries; Dylan Glynn goal, pen goal) def MUDGEE DRAGONS 12 (Lachlan Hill, Jack Beasley tries; Hill 2 goals)