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Smith shines as Roosters claim second Andrew Johns Cup

Second rower Darcy Smith scored the winning try and scooped up Player of the Match as the Central Coast Roosters held a gallant Newcastle-Maitland Region Knights at bay 18-10 in Saturday’s SLE Andrew Johns Cup Grand Final.

Smith and his back-row partners Kaleb Burke and Riley Ilham kept momentum going the whole match with decisive edge and middle runs.

But with the Knights closing to within two points (12-10) with six minutes to play, it was Smith (pictured below) who made one of his typical breakthrough dashes on the left edge to seal the result.

“Darcy has been big for us for the past two weeks,” said Roosters coach Jack Ellison.

“I’ve had to lean on him but he’s so tough. He runs hard, he hits hard, he’s just a really good player.”

Fullback Jai Callaghan’s two tries – after scoring a double in last week’s Semi-Final win over Macarthur Wests Tigers – also proved critical for the Roosters.

Knights coach Andrew Jackson said he told his players to keep the faith as they went into the sheds at halftime just 6-0 down.

“It could have been a lot worse – should have been a lot worse – but the boys dug deep. That fighting spirit brought us back in the second half,” Jackson said.

The Knights were down 12-0 early in the second term but scored two unanswered tries to give themselves a chance.

“I can’t name anyone in particular because the whole 25 players we had in our squad this year have been instrumental – they’ve made a lot of sacrifices week-in, week-out.

“I’m so proud of them for making a Reps Grand Final as hard as it is to lose.”

Roosters found themselves defending their goal line for the opening five minutes.

After surviving that early onslaught they still had the energy to force themselves upfield, which led to their first points.

Callaghan jinked his way through the line to reach out and plant the ball in the seventh minute. The conversion by Tayte Bayley put the Roosters in the lead early (6-0).

Play was held up for several minutes midway through the first half, when Knights prop Beau Hill took a head knock and had to be stretchered off.

The Knights continued to pepper the Roosters line but again Central Coast’s defence withstood the test, helped by a few handling errors from Newcastle-Maitland.

The Roosters had a chance to advance the scoreboard close to halftime, when five-eighth Isaac Fotu-Moala stepped off his right foot twice as he was swallowed up by Knights defenders on the line.

But referee Nathan Hillier ruled a knock-on.

In the second half, the Roosters struck early through Callaghan again.

Fotu-Moala put up the perfect corner kick with Callaghan retrieving and then breaking through a tackle to race the final few metres.

The Knights finally got on the scoreboard in the 41st minute when utility hooker Matthew McEwen did a 360-degree swivel at dummy-half close to the line, found some space, and poked through.

Darcy Mitchell converted (12-6) to make it a six-point ball game with 18 minutes left on the clock.

Despite losing McEwen to injury, the Knights kept on with the fightback with Mitchell finishing off a left-side movement in the corner. He missed the conversion but the margin was reduced to two points (12-10) with six minutes left.

Smith sealed the win with his 58th minute try.

Scores: Central Coast Roosters 18 (Jai Callaghan 2, Darcy Smith tries; Tayte Bayley 3 goals) def Newcastle-Maitland Region 10 (Matthew McEwen, Darcy Mitchell tries; Mitchell 1 goal)

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