The Counties Manukau Stingrays have been crowned the 2023 NZRL National 20s Champions after upsetting South Island 28-16 in a finals match thriller.
The South Island Scorpions were first to draw blood as Jaedon Wellington opened the scoring account in the first ten minutes of the encounter. Counties Manukau struck back as they were rewarded for their defensive pressure as winger Esau Meleisia would recover a loose ball and dot over the line.
The first half continued to be an arm-wrestle as both teams would scramble to keep each other away from their own red zones. However Counties Manukau would benefit off South Island’s errors as Malachi Tony would score their second try to make the score 12-6 going into halftime.
South Island came into the second half firing as they would build pressure completing their set deep into Counties half as the Scorpions centre, Izayah Hesp would collect Caleb Murphy’s grubber kick to even the score. South Island would quickly add to this shifting the ball out wide to set up winger Saki Loma to score in the corner.
With South Island building momentum it looked as if they would step into a new gear much like their previous encounter. However, Counties Manukau would completely blindside South Island to string together three consecutive tries to complete an upset over the competition favourites and capture the National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup 28-16.