The Newcastle Knights defend their kingdom with back-to-back NRLW Premierships after downing Gold Coast Titans 24-18 in a thriller at Accor Stadium on Grand Final Day!
Women's rugby league was the true winner in today's decider. Newcastle and the Gold Coast took to the field in the sixth premiership decider, with two teams coming off very different histories. The Newcastle side was defending their 2022 premiership while the team from the Gold Coast were the wooden spooners in the same season.
The Titans got the game started by throwing everything at the Knights and were the first to score after 15 minutes of solid end-to-end football. Centre, Jamie Chapman, opened her NRLW Grand Final try tally by crossing in the 13th minute and Zara Canfield converted to give the Gold Coast side a 6-point lead.
The Knights discipline was handing the Titans side a lot of good field position and a hair-pulling penalty saw the Gold Coast Titans able to extend their lead by another 2 points by taking the kick for goal. This saw the favourites being down 8 - 0 after 20 minutes of game time and the crowd and commentators stunned by what they were seeing.
The first penalty to the Knights saw them have their first real attacking opportunity in the opposition's half and it didn't take them long to find the Titan's weakness in defence, sending winger Jasmine Strange through a gap on the edge. Southwell was unable to convert and the score remained 8 - 4, but not for long. The Titans would have been hoping to enter the break in front, however, the class of the Newcastle side had other thoughts running in another two tries before the half-time siren with edge players Sheridan Gallagher and Shanice Parker crossing, but both Southwell and Gallagher unable to convert either try.
The team stats at half-time showed just how well both sides were playing with the possession being split straight down the middle with the Titans having the ball for 11.28 and the Knights for 11.36! Both sides are playing with high completion rates with 93% to the Knights and 86% to the Titans.
It didn't take long for things to get back underway in the second half with the Titans coming out of the blocks quickly and scoring the first and second tries of the half, again through Jaime Chapman - making her only the second NRLW player to score a hat-trick in a Grand Final. Rilee Jorgensen was able to convert the second of the two tries to not only hand the Titans back the lead but extend it out by 6.
As we moved into the last 20 minutes of the game, not one, but three Titans players were taken from the field under head injury assessment protocols, with Destiny Mino-Sinapati not returning to finish the game. Knights players were also going down with a number being assessed on the field for different niggles including Laishon Albert-Jones and Hannah Southwell, who both went down awkwardly in separate tackles.
The last 10 minutes started with an all-or-nothing play by Sheridan Gallagher who stole the ball from Titans hero, Jaime Chapman, in a one-on-one strip in a great attacking position. It didn't take long for them to capitalise on the opportunity and send their star fullback and Dally M winner, Tamika Upton, over for a try of her own in the Grand Final. Jesse Southwell found her form with the boot again, converting Upton's try and tying the game at 18-all with 7 minutes to go.
The New-Castle chant broke out across Accor Stadium with the Knights faithful hoping to bring their girls home in the last few minutes of the game and it didn't take them long to be rewarded for their efforts with Tamika Upton chasing her own kick and grounding it in goal for her second try. Another successful Southwell conversion saw the Knights take back the lead and enter the last 2 minutes of the game ahead by 6.
The Gold Coast Titans weren't going to go down without a fight, winning the ball back off a short kick-off and throwing all of their attack at the Newcastle side. An unlucky dropped ball, however, saw the Novcastrians get the ball back with 35 seconds on the clock and see the remaining time run down and become the 2023 NRLW Premiers!