Pre-tournament favourites Newcastle Wanderers justified the hype at Waratahs Sportsground on Saturday afternoon, producing an unbeaten campaign to win the 15th edition of the Orange City Rugby Royal Hotel 10s.
Wanderers blitzed Knox Old Boys, the Geurie Goats and then Toni Gibbs Memorial (TGM) to finish the preliminary stages in first, beat the latter side again in the semi-final and then edged out 2016 champions Aidan Brice All Stars in a thrilling final to secure the cup.
The Newcastle outfit won the final 20-19 over Aidan Brice All Stars – known as the Mullets – and it took a stunning length-of-the-field try two minutes from full-time to secure the victory.
Wanderers led 15-14 at half-time in the decider, before a Nolan Brice try five minutes from full-time pushed the Mullets 19-15 ahead. His all-but-sideline conversion hooped right to left, before crashing into the uprights to keep the buffer at four points.
It looked as though the Mullets might hold on too, despite being on the wrong end of a 9-1 penalty count, but one final try down the left wing gave the Newcastle side a one-point lead and ultimately the win.
“It was disappointing to go down, but it was a bloody good final and it was probably the best we’d played all day, so well done to the Wanderers,” Mullets playmaker Elliot Brice said.
“It was another great day, it always is. The quality of rugby was great, we didn’t know much about a couple of teams but every side was pretty handy.”
Along with Jack Blunt Legends (JBL) and then TGM outfit, the Mullets were one of three sides playing in the tournament – a trend at the Lions’ marquee pre-season event.
“These days do mean a lot to a lot people, so it’s about more than rugby and it’s great to see these teams coming together so often,” Brice said.
The Mullets defeated last year’s champions JBL in an epic semi-final, both sides also went through the early stages of the tournament undefeated.
The Mullets defeated TGM, Orange City Colts and Knox Old Boys in the pool stage, while JBL took down Orange City Lions, Geurie and Central West Colts too.
The sides finished third and second respectively, before meeting the penultimate clash.
After winning just one of its three preliminary games Geurie went on to claim the Plate, contested by the tournament’s bottom four, by defeating Central West Colts in the decider.
However the Plate play-off series was marred somewhat by an ugly brawl between the Goats and Orange City in the semi-final, which caused the game to be ended early.