With a gutsy defensive effort in an all-but scoreless second half Gordon claimed a thrilling 22-17 win over the ACT in Monday's Positive Rugby Foundation Under-14 Boys' NSW State Championship grand final at Pride Park.
In the closest decider in recent memory - the last handful have been blowouts won by consistently-dominant sides - the Highlanders and Brumbies proved evenly-matched, and it took a monstrous defensive effort in the second period for the former side to prevail.
The Highlanders led 19-17 at the half-time break and the scoreline didn't change until the very end of the deciding encounter, with Joey Fowler capping the victory off with a penalty goal after the full-time siren had sounded.
WATCH: Gordon raucously sing their victory song after Monday's grand final win...
The Brumbies threw everything at Gordon in that second period and they had plenty of chances too. They consistently took the right options as well, looking to cross-field kicks and short-side plays when they were on in their search of title-winning points.
But with the Highlanders' defensive pressure not lapsing the last pass, or kick, never went to hand, the Sydney-based side eventually holding onto the ball for the last three minutes before winning a penalty.
Fowler slotted the attempt to notch the second half's only points and seal the five-point win, which came little more than a week after the Highlanders' Intrust Super Shute Shield side came to Orange and tasted victory.
"It was a gutsy effort, a great effort in that second half. Honestly, that game probably deserved to be a draw but I guess there has to be a winner and a loser," Gordon coach Martin Slocombe said, giving the Brumbies' fighting performance due credit.
"I'm absolutely thrilled. As I coach I'm very proud of the boys. They work very hard as a group and that was a tough game, they've done a great job."
These boys play as a team, they're not the biggest but we teach them to play smart and they just play the game, in the best spirits too I think.Gordon coach Martin Slocombe
The victory completed Gordon's undefeated run through the tournament, they progressed to the final courtesy of a 19-15, semi-final win over Penrith which came after a quarter-final victory over Northern Suburbs (22-10), and preliminary wins over over Illawarra (46-5), Manly (31-7), Warringah (59-nil)
It also continued their superb performances at the under-14 level in recent years. They were beaten grand finalists the two years prior, made the semi-finals in 2016 and won the championship in 2015.
"There was some really, really stiff competition in this age group across the state, so we knew it would be tough," Slocombe said.
"These boys play as a team, they're not the biggest but we teach them to play smart and they just play the game, in the best spirits too I think."
The Brumbies opened the scoring in just the second minute through fullback Shane Wilcox - who was outstanding throughout - but Gordon hit back immediately when Malakye Enasio scored out wide.
Fowler slotted the sideline conversion to push the Highlanders ahead 7-5 and although he missed his next attempt from the same spot just minutes later, Liam Grover's try had given the eventual champions a seven-point buffer.
The Brumbies fought back though, Joey Henry latching onto a sublime grubber from centre partner Max Harland to score four minutes out from half-time. This time Wilcox added the extras, deadlocking the clash at 12-all.
The two sides traded tries in the dying stages of the opening half, Gordon scoring first through Jonathon Ryan and the ACT answering back through No.8 Joseph Leuii.
Crucially though, Fowler nailed his attempt while Wilcox's was waved away, leaving the Highlanders with a two-point margin, which they carried for all but the last play of the second half.
ACT's performance in the decider was excellent as it had been for the entire carnival.
They won their grand final berth with a 19-15 win over Parramatta, which followed 43-7, quarter-final win over Manly. The Brumbies had topped their pool thanks to preliminary wins over Northern Suburbs (22-12), Randwick (69-nil) and Hunter (47-nil).
- GORDON HIGHLANDERS 22 (Malakye Enasio, Jonathon Ryan, Liam Grover tries; Joey Fowler 2 conversions, penalty goal) def ACT BRUMBIES 17 (Joseph Leuii, Shane Wilcox, Joey Henry tries; Wilcox conversion)
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