The Newcastle Knights Under 16s side continued their undefeated run to claim a 40-30 win in the qualifying final against the Illawarra Steelers in the Harold Matthews Cup on the weekend.
At half-time the red and blue doubled their opponents score line and led 24-12 but the Steelers fought their way back in the second stanza to level it 30 all before the Knights took charge with two late tries.
Elite Pathways Development Coach Scott Dureau said a solid start from the 16s helped seal the win.
“The Knights led 14 nil after not too long,” said Dureau.
“The start of the game was really good and Illawarra are a pretty classy side as well, so we expected they would come back.
“They gave us a really good challenge, probably the toughest game we’ve had all year.”
Knights winger Pat Achurch helped their efforts in the first half with three tries to his name.
“Pat (Achurch) did well, he didn’t have to do too much for his three tries but he put himself in the right position; did what good wingers do and managed to score,” explained Dureau.
“We controlled the ball better early in the game, therefore we scored more points.
“Second half Illawarra probably had the run of play and controlled things better.
“We did really well to score two late tries to get the win.”
Knights forward Christian Ma’anaima, fullback Bradman Best and five-eighth Max Buderus were highlighted as standouts for the match.
“Christian as a big front rower had a lot to do with the start of the game,” added Dureau.
“At the start he was outstanding, he really laid the platform and set the standard for our forward pack.
“Bradman has been one of our best players all year and he scored an 80 metre try in the first half that really swung the momentum our way early in the game.
“He came up with a few crucial plays to save tries as well.
“Max Buderus had a really good kicking game and managed to score a try and set up a couple as well as kick a few goals so he had some really good involvements in the game.”
A high scoring match from both sides, Dureau believes defence will need a bit of work.
“It was a pretty warm afternoon so I think the heat took its toll on a few of our guys in the second half and Illawarra are also a classy side,” said Dureau.
“We definitely need to improve defensively for two weeks’ time but it was more a fact of two good attacking teams going at it.
“For an Under 16s age group, there was some really good footy that was put on display.”
The Knights junior side have now earned a week off and will prepare for their preliminary final in two weeks.
“We will either play Canberra (Raiders) or Cronulla (Sharks),” explained Dureau.
“They play each other in the qualifying final this weekend so we’ll play the winner of that game and we will watch that one and see what happens.”