Tiana Graham produced two moments of brilliance in the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup Grand Final to help the Illawarra Steelers to a 24-12 win over the Newcastle Knights at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
Graham stepped up for the first time during the second period when the match was in the balance at 10-4 after latching on to an offload from captain Maddison Weatherall and then stepping and jinking her ways past six defenders on her way to the line.
She backed up her heroics in the final period after the Knights had scored to close the gap to 16-8 to sprint through a yawning gap in the defence before finding Mikayla Kidd in support who crossed the line to give the Steelers some breathing space again.
While Graham was responsible for the memorable moments, it was Weatherall who led from the front after terrorising the Newcastle defence with several telling runs as well as coming up with a number of skilful offloads to keep play alive.
"It was pretty cool to get the win in our last year," Weatherall said.
"After losing last year in the semi's and now, to get to the Grand Final and win it it's the best feeling ever. "
"The Knights were strong, they always are, we just had to come out stronger and do our job."
Illawarra came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and it was a barnstorming run from Weatherall which laid the platform for the opening try of the match with Olivia Vale touching down in the corner for a 4-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the Knights shortly afterwards when a cross field kick from No.7 Joeli Morris missed the target and landed in the arms instead of Teagan Berry who raced 70 metres to plant the ball under the posts.
The Steelers had a 10-0 lead and while the Knights had their opportunities during the first period , they were unable to capitalise against a team that finished the regular season with the second-best defensive competition in the league.
Caitlan Johnston, who was one of the Knights’ best players in a losing side, finally gave Newcastle fans reason to cheer early in the second period when she used her size and strength to barge her way over the line and reduce the margin to 10-4.
The Knights kept the game alive when Johnston threw a sublime cut-out pass for Carissa Harrison to score in the corner and reduce the margin to 20-12 before Berry showed some individual brilliance and speed to score the final try of the Grand Final and put the result beyond doubt.
"We played really well and got the win in the end, with our toughness and dedication at training,” Berry said.
“I just tried to back myself, I’ve been told to back myself, just doing what I can being a winger”.
“We’ve put all our work into training and we’re doing everything to the best of our ability and just came out today firing and ready for the win”.