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Endeavour Sports High has stamped their authority on the 420-school Arrive Alive Cup competition, coming home strong in the second half to defeat a gallant Keebra Park High in the Grand Final by 20-10.
It was a scrappy match in parts with both teams making handling errors and mistakes. An early chance down the western edge to Endeavour winger Luke Hume was scuttled by the referee after a cut-out pass was ruled forward.
Despite being a Queensland-based school there were certainly a few supporters on hand for Keebra Park. They became very vocal in the 10th minute after sustained pressure saw their second-rower Ben Te?o crash over from close range to open up the scoring. Goal-kicker Matthew Parata failed to convert the try however, and Keebra took a 4-point lead.
A few minutes later Endeavour began to move the ball down the other end of the field and some clever work by hooker Daniel Ezekiel levelled the scores as he darted out of dummy half into a yawning gap. With Mat Seamark adding the extras Endeavour nudged to a slim 6-4 lead.
Patchy play from both sides continued until two minutes before half time. Bodene Thompson ran onto a good pass and broke into the in-goal area from out wide before doing the right thing by his kicker and bringing it around behind the posts. With the conversion to Parata, Keebra Park took a 10-6 halftime lead but this was the last time they would score in the match.
Soon after the resumption of play, Endeavour replacement Luke Letele scurried past the defence from dummy half to level proceedings with Seamark?s conversion making the score 12-10 to Endeavour.
Midway through the second half Endeavour centre Chase Stanley scored the try of the match as a sweeping backline movement beginning on the western side of the ground saw him score out on the eastern flank featuring some great ball-work from the halves and backs. Seamark failed to give Endeavour Sports any breathing space with his missed conversion, and the scores remained at 16-10.
A fight erupted in the 43rd minute after a couple of high shots began to creep into the game. Following on from this Endeavour managed to hold-out Keebra despite several attacking raids in the final stages. A critical call from referee Alan Shortall saw a pass close to the line ruled forward for Keebra, disallowing them the opportunity to draw level with the conversion.
Sensing the game was lost, Keebra began to throw the ball about close to their line hoping for a miracle only to see classy centre Chase Stanley snatch it and go on to score right on the bell. At that point the conversion meant little and Seamark?s miss was probably more a reflection of his eagerness to begin celebrating as the final score of 20-10 was posted on the scoreboard.
In the pinnacle of schoolboy footy, the Sutherland-Shire school has strung back-to-back victories together in 2004-05 following their loss in the 2003 final. Under the guidance of coach Jeff Hardy the school has a swag of talented youngsters who are sure to feature in the NRL someday. Likewise, Keebra Sports High has a fair claim to fame with current Wests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall being a former student.
Ben Te?o of Keebra was awarded the coveted Peter Sterling Medal for player of the series.
Endeavour Sports High 20 (C Stanley 2, D Ezekiel, L Letele tries; M Seamark 2 goals) def. Keebra Park High 10 (B Te?o, B Thompson tries; M Parata goal). Referee: Alan Shortall. Halftime: Keebra 10-6.
Endeavour Sports High: M Brown, M McGuirk, C Stanley, B Lane, L Hume, M Russell, M Seamark, T Leha, R Lovegrove, F Pakutoa, B Ayshford. Interchange: L Letele, J Hooper, A Cherrington, M Mundine. Coach Jeff Hardy.
Keebra Park High: M Parata, S Mutu, O Wihongia-Seia, D Harth, T Matenga, D McDonald, J Poland, H Retzlaff, M Francis, S Byrne, B Thompson, T Leary. Interchange: M Campbell, A McGill, Brad DePaul, Nathan Sullivan. Coach Greg Lenton.