A Tilly Power field goal with two minutes left on the clock gave Mounties a 1-0 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in one of the most remarkable Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership Grand Finals ever played.
The score line alone underlines that fact, and then there was the myriad of try-saving tackles on both sides, the brutal hits, and the players limping from the field or needing treatment on it.
For the second year in a row the Harvey Norman trophy-winner has been decided by a field goal.
But last year in the 21-20 win by Wests Tigers there was 41 points scored from eight tries.
This year it was a gripping grind with a capital 'G'.
It took Power steadying herself about 25m out in the 68th minute before the teams finally could be split.
“It was such a terrific game of footy. You can’t defend as much as that and not get a reward,” said Mounties coach Grant Izzard.
“They were outstanding – defence wins you games. Yes, we would have like to have been a bit more cleaner in our attack, but the Doggies put the pressure on us – all credit to them.
“They were gallant in defeat – they had wounded, we had wounded. We just got them at the right time.
“I actually think we won it in the first half when we defended six or seven sets in a row. We knew we could do anything after that.”
As for the field goal, Izzard had only one word to describe it.
“Beautiful … it was actually the run before which was just as critical,” he said referring to a 10m driving run from former Test prop Eliana Walton.
“Eliana’s run was unreal. She went on with eight minutes to go to make a difference – that was her job ... she did it.
“As for Tilly, she’s been our best for the past five weeks. Her kicking game is second to none, she kicks goals from anywhere and she just never stops trying.”
The Bulldogs players slumped to the ground – plenty of tears were shed.
“We bombed three tries in the first half and that would have been enough to win it,” coach Craig Sandercock said.
“You’ve got to hand it to Mounties. They put a lot of pressure on us and our defence was unbelievable in that second half.
“But Mounties controlled the ball so well and their kicking game in the second half was outstanding. They were just too good.”
The opening 35 minutes had plenty of missed opportunities from both sides.
From the Bulldogs knocking-on in-goal, to the Mounties being held up over the line twice, chances for points were slipping by.
Passes also weren’t sticking for either side, mainly due to some brutal defence from Mounties forwards Walton, Kerehitina Matua and Simaima Taufa or the Bulldogs trio of Kennedy Cherrington, Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa and Tiana Raftstrand-Smith.
Opposing halfbacks Power and Tayla Preston were having a battle royale in both defence and attack. They chased their kicks downfield like women possessed and constantly worked the edges trying to find a way through for their support players.
In the second half, the consequences of a hard defensive game began to show.
Bulldogs five-eighth Gayle Broughton had to pass an HIA to stay on the field, while play was held up for several minutes while Taufa had trainers attend to her right shoulder. She left the field for 10 minutes then came back on.
Rafstrand-Smith limped from the field with five minutes left as trainers managed to persuade her to stay off.
In the end it became truly survival of the fittest.
Scores: Mounties 1 (Tilly Power 1 field goal) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0.