Western Suburbs Magpies have put the exclamation mark on a remarkable season with a comprehensive 42-16 win over the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the UNE Harold Matthews Cup Grand Final at CommBank Stadium today.
The Magpies had been the best team all season and kept their undefeated streak alive with another impressive win with winger Tajh Colquhoun bagging a hat-trick and Nathaniel Gallagher a double. Prop Jordan Miller was named Player of the Match after a barnstorming performance.
The Sharks chances ended when fullback and captain Chevy Stewart was sent off for dissent. At that stage, they were trailing 20-6 with 20 minutes still to go and the decision paved the way for the Magpies to run away with the match.
“I think the boys played a really good game today; we knew coming up against Cronulla they’d showed some really good form during the year and it was going to be a tough game,” Magpies coach Robbie Mears said.
“In relation to our boys it’s been a long process; they’ve worked really hard. We were fortunate enough to go through undefeated this year, I wasn’t expecting that, but each week has been enjoyable and today is a great result and well deserved for them.”
Despite their perfect record, the Magpies got off to a shaky start after kicking out on the full from the kick-off but the Sharks were unable to capitalise on the opportunity. The Sharks also started in nervous fashion after kicking the ball over the sideline while attempting a short drop-out; paving the way for Magpies winger Tajh Colquhoun to open the scoring with a penalty goal for a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks recovered and then took a lead after a bomb from Ashton Simmonds was spilled by Magpies fullback Luke Lualilii. Winger Kurt Montgomery was on hand to pounce on the scraps and race away untouched to score. Stewart landed the tough chance from out wide to give his side a 6-2 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the Magpies when they kicked out on the full from the kick-off but the Sharks were unable to take advantage of the situation. Stewart fired a lovely cut-out pass for Montgomery with a try beckoning but he was unable to quicken enough in time before the defence arrived and bundled him into touch.
It proved to be a turning point in the first half with the Magpies taking control from that point on to run in three unanswered tries. The first came after Heath Mason fired a cut-out pass for Colquhoun to dive over out wide and level the scores at 6-all.
The Magpies increased the lead after prop Jordan Miller popped a pass for skipper Kiti Laulilii, who proved too much of a handful for halfback Bryce Sait to handle close to the line. They finished the first half on a high after a bomb from Luke Keppie was spilled by the normally-reliable Stewart at fullback and into the arms of Nathaniel Gallagher who strolled over untouched. Colquhoun landed the conversion to make it 18-6 lead at half-time.
The Magpies extended the lead to 20-6 after play resumed when the Sharks were penalised for a late challenge on halfback Luke Keppie. Stewart was given his marching orders a short time later and the Magpies took advantage of the situation when Mason fired a long ball our for an unmarked Colquhoun to cross over out wide and extend the lead to 24-6.
The Sharks refused to give up and Simmonds kept their faint hopes alive when he stepped back inside to crash his way thought the goal-line defence but it didn’t take long for the floodgates to open for the Magpies after that. Tries followed to Lachlan Galvin, Gallagher, Colquhoun to seal a comprehensive win and confirm their status as the best team for the season.