The Fingal Bay Bomboras silenced their critics in the most effective way on Saturday – by defeating the grand final favourites Shortland to claim the NHRL A-grade premiership.
In a nail-biting finish, the Bomboras broke a 26-all tie with 20 minutes left in the game to win it 31-26.
“It’s just a great achievement for the guys,” Bomboras president Stuart McDonald said.
“Everyone is great mates, they play for each other, and that showed in the grand final.
“We pretty much showed everyone why we’re in A-grade.”
McDonald previously told the Examiner that there had been talk of moving Fingal down early in the season following their promotion to A-grade when they won the B-grade premiership in 2016.
The proud president said Fingal are believed to be the first NHRL club to win a B-grade premiership only to back it up with an A-grade premiership the year after.
Shortland went into Saturday’s grand final game, played at No. 1 Sportsground in Newcastle, as the favourites.
The Devils were runners up in last years A-grade grand final against Windale.
After nervous start by both sides, Shortland, captained by Richie Lebrock and with a talented line-up including former Australian international Timana Tahu, scored the first points after six minutes.
Fingal, captained by Cameron Scully and playing coach Bo Earl, scored next in the 20th minute after some solid lead up work by Perry White and Mateai Seu to put Denam Glasson in for a nice try.
The underdogs were on the board.
Shortland scored next with a try from the number six, Lebrock, who almost walked across the line.
With a successful conversion the score was 12-6 after 25 mins.
After a number of indiscretions by the Shortland number 13, Michael Edmonds, for a few high shots he was sent to the sin bin with six mins left before half time.
Edmonds was seen flipping Fingal supporters the bird as he walked off the field.
Before Edmonds had reached the sheds, Fingal scored through Isaac Upton with a long pass out to Nathan Dover.
The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the score was 12-10 Shortland’s way.
With a player down, Shortland struggled with a number of off-side penalties.
Fingal scored again with a try out wide by Seu who strolled in untouched. The Bommies lead 14-12 at half time.
At half time the skies darkened and the wind came up stronger from the south. Fingal has a stiff wind at their backs for the second half.
Three minutes into the second half Upton threw a nice dummy and split the defence allowing him to run in for a nice solo effort and score next to the posts to make it 18-12.
With the kick, Fingal furthered their lead 20-12.
The wind became stronger and colder. The kick off from Shortland struggled to make it 25 metres into the breeze.
Fingal were straight back on the attack and after a couple of mistakes by Shortland, Glasson made another nice break before Mitch Wilton sailed across the line for another try under the posts from dummy half.
With the kick the score was now 26-12 Fingal’s way but there was plenty of time left in the game for Shortland to come back.
And came back they did, scoring the next try.
Lebrock threw a huge dummy close to the line, which even fooled the commentators. A successful conversion took the score to 26-18.
The try lifted the Shortland side, which made a few nice breaks before scoring out wide through number five Steve Cook.
The conversion took the score to 26-22 Fingal’s way with 20 minutes to go.
Shortland were gaining momentum again and Fingal were struggling for possession.
Shortland, close to the line again, spread the ball wide and winger Josh Howarth scored to even it up.
At 26-all, both supporter camps were on the edge of their seats.
Shortland were starting to look the stronger team – their big players lifted and possession favoured the Devils.
At 69 minutes, Fingal Bay’s number 13, Ben Schneider, who played a strong game in attack and defence, was dropped in a heavy tackle.
It was still 26-all and Fingal Bay were starting to lift again.
Both teams appeared to be fighting hard from end-to-end with some excellent defence and hard tackles.
As time wound down to the last five minutes Shortland missed two attempts at a field goal.
Scully, from the Bay, made a break and came within a metre of the line.
Upton kicked a field goal putting Fingal in front 27-26.
As the minutes ticked down, Upton made a break again.
He could have scored himself but passed it to Dover who scored the match winning try.
The strong wind made the conversion attempt unsuccessful, but Fingal were ahead 31-26.
Moments after the kick off the full time horn sounded and Fingal Bay were the winners of the NHRL A-grade grand final.
At the presentation Schneider was awarded man of the match.
The team were supported this season by Australian assistant coach and former Newcastle Knight Micheal Hagan and Bomboras assistant coach and stats man Paul Dooley.
Following their win on Saturday, the team took the cup back home to celebrate long and hard into the night at their clubhouse at Fingal Bay.
The club will hold its presentation and AGM on September 27. A number of committee positions are being advertised, including for Fingal’s first ladies tag team, for 2018.