Illawarra Show Steel in Rolling Rebels
Illawarra have won a record fourth consecutive AAMI Country Championship after accounting for the Newcastle Rebels by 20 points to 16 at Cessnock Sportsground and they did it fine style coming back from a 16 point deficit to continue the Rebels' run of outs.
Dane Queenan opened the scoring for the home team with a clever peice of footwork. An ill directed pass provded the opportunity and with some quick thinking Queenan kicked through, regathered and scored under the posts to give the Rebels first blood in the 2010 final.
The soft conditions under foot were proving difficult for both teams as they traded blows for the majority of the first half with both defensive lines holding strong. It wasn't until just on the stroke of half time when either of the lines were crossed and it was again Newcastle who put on the points.
A pin point cross field kick from Queenan found his Northern Blues team mate Matt Cooper who out lept his opposite number to give Newcastle a commanding 12 point half time lead.
That lead was extended to what looked to have been an unassailable 16 points when Daniel Metcalfe crossed shortly after the resumption but Illawarra refused to lie down and kept crawling their way back into the match.
Illawarra tries to Ryan Smith and Joel Ruskin narrowed the gap to 8 points before the match was turned on its ear when a Newcastle turnover in the Illawarra half saw the ball end up in the hands of Helensburgh's Eamon Hillen who raced 70 metres to score under the posts with 10 minutes remaining.
Newcastle's big men were out on their feet and struggling to hold on but with each attacking raid thwarted a minute ticked away. The defending champions kept on coming and with 4 minutes left on the clock a great kick into the in goal by Blake Dureau found his brother Nathan to score putting them in front for the first time in the match and handing their team another Country title.
The Country team to tour Queensland in July will be announced next Saturday and after the display that both Newcastle and Illawarra put on in this match it would be no surprise to see the team dominated by the two.
In the other match at Cessncok Sportsground Group 11 were too strong for Group 19 running out with a 36 points to 18 victory booking themselves a place in the final of the Tier 2 Championships.