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Roosters make history with back-to-back Tarsha Gale Cups

Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy have become the first team in history to claim back-to-back Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cups after downing Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 26-22 in a thrilling Under 19s Women’s Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval.

The Roosters had to dig deep after trailing the Bulldogs 18-6 midway through the first half. They didn’t seal the match until five-eighth Brooke Talataina scored off the back of a scrum with less than five minutes left on the clock, with Roosters lock Tavarna Papalii later named Player of the Match.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Roosters coach Blake Cavallaro said.

“I’m just so proud of the efforts of the girls, and their resilience and how they bounced back from being down at half-time.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I reckon it will later on tonight. We’re the first-ever club to go back-to-back and we’re going to go down in history so it will be great to enjoy this moment.”

The two sides had dominated the competition this season, with the Bulldogs just shading the Roosters in attack while the Roosters had been marginally better than the Bulldogs in defence.

Due to the nature of the 13-a-side competition, the two sides had not met over the course of the nine rounds with the Grand Final being the first time they had come together.

The Roosters got off to the perfect start after a kick from halfback Skyla Adams was put down by the Bulldogs; paving the way for winger Paige Lowe to score from the ensuing scrum. Winger Mia Barber nailed the conversion from the sideline for a 6-0 lead.

The try came at a cost though with Lowe staying down in the in-goal area with a knee injury. She left the field and was treated on the sideline but unfortunately was unable to re-join the match.

The Bulldogs hit back almost immediately after a kick across field was put down by the Roosters in the in-goal area with back-rower Tatiana Finau on the spot to touch the ball down for a try. Finau then converted her own try to lock the scores up at 6-all.

That set the tone for what quickly turned into an entertaining first half. It was end-to-end action with both sides quick to punish the other for any errors.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 12-6 after hooker Tarli Dennis chased down her own grubber kick in-goal, and then made the Roosters pay for kicking out on the full after back-rower Noaria Kapua showed great skill and speed to swerve her way past the defence to score.

The Bulldogs then knocked on from the kick-off and it wasn’t long before Adams picked up forward Jaydah Tofae with a lovely short ball to crash over the line and score. Barber landed another touch conversion to reduce the deficit to 18-12.

The two sides traded tries once again before the break with a Roosters mistake from the kick-off opening the door for a try to Bulldogs fullback Abby Aros to score, before Adams put fullback Krystal Bulmer over in the corner to leave them trailing 22-16 at half-time.

The Roosters were the first to score in the second half after spreading the ball wide for centre Lailani Montgomery to score in the corner. Barber wasn’t able to land the conversion but the scene was set for a grandstand finish with the Bulldogs clinging to a 22-20 lead.

Both sides had their chances to seize the advantage but it was the Roosters who eventually stepped up after five-eighth Brooke Talataina took off from a scrum and accelerated through the gap to score. Barber landed the conversion to give the Roosters the lead at 26-22 with less than five minutes to go, and they managed to hang on in a frantic finish.

“It definitely lived up to the hype,” Cavallaro said.

“It’s awesome to see the girls’ pathways and how it’s progressing. There was only one player (from last year’s winning team), Ally Bullman, so this was a new squad.

“There’s a lot of girls who have been part of our academies and development programs over the last couple of years and we’ve seen them come though so that’s been great.”

Acknowledgement of Country

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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