Hills Bulls made up for losing the Major Semi-final two weeks ago to Glebe by outmuscling the Dirty Reds 18-12 in the Grand Final at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday to win their first NSWRL Ron Massey Cup Premiership.
Hills led the regular season from start to finish with 15 wins from 16 games but stumbled a fortnight ago in the finals to the tune of 38-10.
The minor premiers had a point to prove and never let their foot off the Dirty Reds throats today, in a grinding affair.
Their second half defence won the day in the end, with back rower Jerry Key winning Player of the Match.
“We’ve been the best defensive side all year,” said Hills Bulls coach Mick Withers.
“I would have like to have scored more points but on the back of defence in those big gams is what wins them.
“I still don’t know what happened two weeks ago. They totally outplayed us that’s for sure and the boys were hurting from that.
“The good thing was we got to play again the next week (22-12 over Wentworthville) in the Preliminary (Final) and then came here with three games under our belt.
“That seemed to set us on the path. It’s the first time we’ve won it and we’re very very happy.”
It was an arm wrestle at first with tit-for-tat tries to prop Taniela Lasalo (Bulls) and second rower Dylan Oc’Connor (Glebe) to level scores 6-6 in the opening 10 minutes.
But after a period of possession being fairly equally shared, Hills Bulls started to charge towards the back end of the half with two tries in seven minutes.
First Bulls centre Aloki Mataele drew the defence beautifully to put his halfback Blake Goodman away, before five-eighth Henry Raiwalui stepped fullback James Coyne.
Hooker Brad Keighran converted both and the Hills Bulls had shot out to an 18-6 halftime lead.
Things didn’t go so well for Glebe early in the second half when they lost utility Jackson Stewart to concussion.
But they put themselves back in the hunt when front rower Thomas Worthington popped a sublime pass to his teammate Jonah Ngaronoa to barge over beside the uprights.
The conversion by Eli Levido put the Dirty Reds within a converted try 18-12.
A penalty escort going Glebe’s way gave them a chance in the final five minutes, but winger Johnathan Tufuga was bustled over the sideline in the north-east corner.
Bulls fullback Curtis Wilson didn’t score any points but he kept his side in the contest plenty of times with try-saving tackles as Hills hung on grimly.
As Glebe kept applying the pressure, Raiwalui attempted a field goal about 10m to the right of the goal posts to make the Dirty Reds score twice, but his fatigued legs didn’t allow him to get enough lift behind the ball.
And it didn’t matter. The Bulls players started to jump up and down, embracing each other as the final seconds counted down to the full-time hooter.