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Mounties book ticket to Grand Final after narrow win

Mounties found redemption in missing last year’s Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership Grand Final by taking the challenge right up to 2023 Minor Premiers the North Sydney Bears, winning a close Semi-final 18-16 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

Mounties remembered the pain of losing to Cronulla-Sutherland in last year’s semis and were not daunted by the Bears today containing international players like Raecene McGregor, Kirra Dibb, Sarah Togatuki and Jess Sergis. Canterbury-

They will now face Canterbury-Bankstown in next Saturday's (29 April) decider.

“This side has been a quality side for four years or so and have missed the games they should have one,” said Mounties coach Grant Izzard.

“Sometimes the big occasion can be overwhelming. But they weren’t intimidated today.

“Our first half was nearly a perfect half of footy. We kicked into the corner, we defended really well and scored tries on the back of that,” he said.

“We went away a little from that in the second but we concentrated on our defence all week – aiming up for each other and I’m proud of that effort today.”

Mounties took a 12-4 lead into halftime and jumped out to 18-4 early in the second.

The Bears then mounted a fightback scoring two tries in four minutes but it was all a little too late.

“Very heartbroken…. but you know what, Mounties had a plan and came out and executed it,” Togatuki said.

“Our halves were great and kept us composed when we got close (in second half). We kept telling ourselves ‘don’t look at the scoreboard, just get the job done’.

“But we didn’t. We had so many opportunities, we were just unlucky. So that’s on us – we beat ourselves in that game,” Togatuki said.

Mounties played a controlled game through hooker Janaya Bent and halfback Matilda Power.

It was Power who was held up over the Bears line early in the first half, which set the tone.

Mounties scored two first-half tries to five-eighth Serena Naitokatoka and centre Haylee Hifo to take the 12-4 halftime lead.

Centre Rikeya Horne was the Bears only try scorer in the first half retrieving an offload from her halfback McGregor to score.

When Mounties scored their third try early in the second half – Bent burrowing over from dummy-half – it appeared the hill might be too difficult to climb for the Bears at 18-4 down.

Mounties were extremely strong in defence, especially in their red zone. Three times they scrambled to deny Sergis and Togatuki close to the line before pushing winger Grace-Lee Weekes into touch.

But possession and penalties finally loosened the pressure valve and the Bears kicked into gear with two quick tries. McGregor used her fend and then momentum to plant the ball before Horne grabbed her second. Five-eighth Dibb converted both from the sideline.

The burst of points reduced Mounties’ lead to just two (18-16) with eight minutes left on the clock.

It was desperate stakes for both sides but Mounties held their nerve.

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