The Waratah Tigers were able to control the first-grade decider from the outset and in the process knock off the minor premiers, Yenda, in a 30-20 win at Solar Mad Stadium on Sunday.
While the silverware is a nice touch, there was extra meaning for the win according to Waratahs coach Kose Lelei.
It’s a special one this one,” he said. “Especially the last two year, since Rayjay, I was trying to do it for Rayjay last year, and to finally get it done I hope we made him proud up there.”
It was a fast start for the Waratahs as Pili Maiava was able to crash in the corner to give his side an early 6-0 lead.
After both sides battled it out in the middle a mistake at the back by Yenda’s Moses Lolohea gifted the Waratahs a chance to score their second of the afternoon, and after Graham Levu barged across the line, the Tigers had a 12-0 lead with 18 minutes gone.
Lelei found a gap in the Yenda defence only two minutes later to score his first of the afternoon as the Waratahs looked like they were going to run away with the game.
With 11 minutes left in the first half Yenda needed to be the next team to score and were able to find their way across the line as a flat pass from Stephen Broome was collected by Jayden Conaghan who ran around to score under the post. James Girdler was able to kick a penalty goal just before halftime to see the Waratahs head into the break with a 20-6 lead.
Yenda did what they needed to at the start of the second half and just five minutes after the break Yenda co-coach Michael Mogliotti was able to find a hole in the Waratahs defence and charge to the line to get the Blueheelers back to within 10 points.
It was shortlived with Lelei scoring his second of the day after he somehow managed to wriggle through the Yenda defence and beat off four tackles to extend his side’s lead.
Yenda refused to lay down and with ten minutes to go Mogliotti was able to spread the ball out to John Lolohea who scored in the corner, and while the conversion from Broome hit the crossbar and bounced out, the Blueheelers were still within shouting distance.
Ben Vearing all but put the game to bed for the Waratahs with a try with four minutes to go and while a mistake at the back allowed Isaiah Potts to score directly from a Broome kick off it was too late for Yenda.
Lelei paid credit to his side who worked so hard for him this season.
“I was honoured to coach a team like this,” he said.
“I told the boys at the start of the game, this will probably be the last time we will compete with each other, you know guys move on, and we had something special here.”