Newcastle Rebels have held off a late comeback from Illawarra Steelers to secure a 26-22 victory in the Under 20s Steel City Challenge.
Newcastle wing Pat Achurch opened the scoring for the match after he was on the receiving end of a beautiful flick pass from his centre Callum Briggs to put the Rebels 4-0 up after 12 minutes.
Some second phase play from Newcastle got them rolling down field and Max Buderus kicked cross field for Sam Smith, who plucked it out of the air and scored in the corner. Buderus successfully converted and the Rebels had an early 10-0.
Ryan Potts was one of the Rebels’ best and some crafty dummy-half running got his side into attacking field position. Soon after, Joseph Barber was able to capitalise by beating several defenders and crashing over in the 21st minute.
Just four minutes later the Steelers would record their first try through Jye Patterson, who was able to use his pace to beat his opposite man on the right-hand side of the field.
Josh Martin’s conversion was unsuccessful, and the Rebels went into the break with a handy 20-4 lead.
Newcastle were first on the board in the second half after prop Carlin Pettit showed the footwork of a winger, tiptoeing around several defenders before crashing over to score. Buderus converted to push the Rebels lead out to 26-4 and make it a long road back for Illawarra.
Momentum started to swing in the Steelers favour after their halves were able to build pressure off the back of repeat sets and it was Tully Mackay who capitalised. The back-up dummy-half caught defenders napping off the back of a quick play the ball and after Martin converted, the Steelers were trailing 26-10.
Jye Patterson was one of the Steelers best and he was able to strip the Rebels for numbers and throw a crisp cut-out ball for Jacob Masters who went over in the corner. Josh Martin nailed it from the left sideline and the home side were back in it at 26-16.
In the 59th minute, Steelers five-eighth Max Devlin stepped up and threw a 20m pass to Jace Barnes who was able to get a brilliant flick pass away to Bailey Simmons who scored in the corner. Josh Martin continued his success with the boot and brought his side within striking distance at 26-22.
Suddenly, the crowd started to come to life as the Steelers looked every chance of snatching an unlikely victory. With minutes to spare, Braith Lawrence-Foy crashed over the line although the Rebels defence held strong and he was unable to ground the ball.
Only minutes later, the Steelers attacked the left edge and looked to have scored, although the ball was called forward and the Rebels were crowned 26-22 winners.