The North Sydney Bears have triumphed 16-10 over the Cronulla Sharks in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership Grand Final, sealed with a late try to Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin representative Shontelle Stowers.
North Sydney’s Aliti Namoce Sagano had a chance to score in the opening minutes of play but dropped the ball over the line.
The prop made up for for her mistake in the ninth minute when off the back of a penalty broke through the Sharks defensive line 20 metres out and offloaded to fullback Shanice Parker to score.
Five-eighth Chloe Leaupepe converted to put the Bears out to an early 6-0 lead.
The Sharks were then dealt a blow when their hooker and Jillaroo Keeley Davis came off the field with what looked to be an arm injury.
Tyla Gambel dropped a high kick from Maddie Studdon give Cronulla a chance then they were given a penalty and their front rower Kennedy Cherrington took full advantage, crashing over close to the line to score.
Studdon slotted the conversion to lock the scores up at 6-all.
With a few minutes left before halftime, Parker broke through the field and look to be away but then lost the ball through a strong Sharks tackle.
With a minute left to play the Bears made a break down the left hand touchline and got the ball to speedy winger Gambel, but she was put into touch so the scores remained the same heading into the break.
In the first five minutes of the second half Davis returned to the field in a boost for her team and it didn’t take them long to get on the scoreboard.
Five-eighth Corban McGregor put a grubber in on the far side of the field into the corner and Andie Robinson got to the ball before anyone else and crashed over to score and put her side in front 10-6.
From the ensuing set, the Bears kicked off and Sharks centre Jamie-Anne Wright knocked the ball on, giving the Bears the perfect opportunity to get one back but they lost the ball on the first tackle.
They made up for it when they were back on the attack a few minutes later and Moniqua Mo’ale couldn’t be stopped close to the line as she barged her way over and scored for her team under the sticks, with Leaupepe converting to put the Bears in front 12-10 for the first time in the match.
Unfortunately, Bears player Losena Maylin Qiolevu had to be stretchered off the field for a leg injury after an awkward tackle.
With less than four minutes left on the clock, the Sharks were working it out of their own end and McGregor went to put in a kick, which was charged down by Stowers who sprinted away to score the match-winner.
“It was a surprise to me, all I knew is that I had to keep going forward and then the ball spilt out and that’s what I did,” Stowers said.
Leaupepe missed the kick to give the Sharks some hope as the Bears only led by a converted try but the clock was against them and the Bears managed to hold on to win 16-10 and book a spot in the Grand Final at Bankwest Stadium next week against the Central Coast Roosters.
“It’s been a rough start to the season and we all came round and started working really hard for each other and turning up – it’s been great,” Stowers said.
“They are a very polished team and its going to be a great grand final I have no doubt were going to be digging as deeper than we have before so we’re excited.”