NZRL National Competition Grand Finals 2013
Auckland, NZ, October 21,2013 – The 2013 National Competition 17s and Pirtek National Premiership finals featured two Zones very familiar with finals appearances. The Falcons, representing Akarana, had played all eight 17s and Premiers finals since 2010, while the Stingrays from Counties Manukau had played in seven, missing only the 2011 Premier grade final.
The Falcons went into the 17s final top of the table after seven rounds, having only lost their opening game to the Wellington Orcas and with the confidence of a convincing round three win over the Stingrays (44-16). The Stingrays only loss during the pool rounds was to the Falcons and they were determined to turn that result around.
The match featured a host of players with experience of top level rugby league including the NZ Residents 18s fullback Brad Abbey and 18s teammate Ofahiki Ogden (Stingrays) and Faitotoa Faitotoa (Akarana), along with NZ Residents 16s player Erin Clark (Akarana).
In a first half full of running, the Counties Manukau Stingrays were out to 12-0 before the Akarana Falcons scored two unconverted tries to close the gap to 12-10 at half time. After the break, the Falcons scored first but a determined Stingrays attack combined with back to back penalties helped them get back into the game and they lead 26-16 before Akarana were able to score a late try through their #11 Tualima Tualima, his second for the night.
The game went right down to the last minute when, with the crowd cheering them on, the Falcons threw everything they had at the Stingrays line but they weren’t able to break the committed Stingrays defence and the Mark Graham Cup returned to the Counties Manukau Stingrays for the first time since 2010. Bradley Abbey, the Stingrays fullback was named MVP.
Their coach Neville Rogers said after the game that he was really pleased with the team’s performance across the season, saying they had focused on a whole team approach, with the players expected to be smartly dressed in team kit, to behave well at all times on and off the field and to represent their Zone with pride.
Rogers said that their loss to the Falcons in round three had been a motivator for them coming into tonight’s game “we prepared for tonight by watching the tape of our loss to the Falcons, that was good motivation for us. I thought the boys showed courage and resilience especially in that last minute. They’re great bunch of lads off the field and it’s great to see them rewarded on it.”
At the conclusion of the game a 2013 17s Merit Team was named and is listed below.
In the second game of the evening, it was the Stingrays, who having gone through the pool rounds unbeaten, were unable to match it with the Akarana Falcons, a team they had beaten in round three (32-26). Akarana were playing for their fourth win in this grade, while the Stingrays were attempting to win it for the first time in three attempts, having missed the final in 2011.
After a slow start, a try right on half time gave the Falcons a 16-0 lead, which the Stingrays, despite a concerted effort in the last 20 minutes of the second half simply couldn’t run down. Although the Stingrays were the first to score after half time, the closest they got was 18-12 before the Falcons kicked on to finish ten points up at 22-12.
At Mt Smart Stadium:
Mark Graham Cup (National Competition 17s)
Akarana Falcons: 22 (T Tualima 2, E Clark, T Levi tries; R Timoti 3 goals)
Counties Manukau Stingrays: 26 (V Tooala, O Ogden 2, J Hunt, E Mikaele tries; B Abbey 3 goals)
Half time: 10 – 12
Referee: Aaron Donald
Albert Baskerville Trophy (Pirtek National
Counties Manukau Stingrays:12 (S Moala, T Phillips tries; S Walker 2 goals)
Akarana Falcons:22 (E Esera, K Fraser 2, C Aumua tries; S Cook 2 goals 1 penalty goal)
Half time: 0 – 16
Referee: Shane Rehm
17s Merit Team 2013
|16||James Dean Fisher Harris||Northern|