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Russ Haylock

Collegians have won the 2022 MOJO Homes Illawarra Cup Grand Final after coming from behind to defeat Western Suburbs Devils 12-10 at WIN Stadium.

Down 10-0 at half-time, Collies were forced to rise to the occasion in the second half and they did, scoring two converted tries to secure the win over their old rivals.

Collegians also defeated Wests in the last Grand Final to be played in the competition in 2019, making the win even sweeter as the men in black and red went back-to-back with the two-point win. 

The match began with immediate intensity, with the teams going set for set until a penalty allowed Devils fullback Mitch Porter to open the scoring with a goal, giving Wests a 2-0 lead at the 10-minute mark.

The arm-wrestle continued, with both teams firing shots at their opponents’ line, before a sharp pass from Devils halfback Justin Rodrigues put a flying Joey Dickson over to score on the right edge.

Porter then added the extras, and then another penalty goal to extend the Devils lead to 10 points after 31 minutes.

Collegians found some spark in attack through bench hooker Navajo Doyle, who combined well with his forwards to march them up the ground at the back end of the first half.

Collies went over for a try just before half time when winger Sam McCann scored in the corner, but it was disallowed due to a forward pass.

With just one try throughout the entire first half both teams showed strength in defence, with the Devils able to capitalise on scoring opportunities a little better, giving them a 10-0 lead at half time. 

It was young centre Ben Rumble’s try in the 60th minute that allowed the Collies' fightback to begin, after he was put into some space thanks to a lovely ball from five-eighth Max Devlin.

Rumble ran 60 metres to score in the corner, however replays showed that the put down was questionable as the Devils defenders attempted to run him down.

However, the try was awarded and Devlin nailed the conversion from the sideline to make it 10-6 in favour of the Devils.

Just eight minutes later Collies were over again through back-rower Clive Brett, who ran onto another silky pass from Devlin and crashed over on the left-hand side of the field.

The Devils fought hard late, attempting a two-point field goal to level the scores and continuing to attack out wide, but Collegians were able to raise their levels in defence, leaving Wests to come up just short in the decider once again. 

Collies lock and captain Blake Phillips was adjudged Player of the Match, which was also Collegians coach Nathan Fien’s last at the helm for the club.

“It’s been unreal,” Fien said after the win.

“The Club has done a lot for my family and I, so it’s the end of a long road to me but to end it on today with our third premiership in these colours.

“A lot goes into a season, as it does at all clubs, but you ride the ups and downs, the injuries, all the little setbacks that you have and to be able to get it done on grand final day when it all counts is really, really special. 

“It’s a great group of guys and a fantastic Club. It’s been awesome to be a part of.

“I just wanted to leave the Club in a better spot than when I got here, and hopefully I’ve done that.”

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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