IN one of the best matches in the three-year history of the Hunter Valley Group 21 Women’s Nines Competition, the Merriwa Magpies finally broke their premiership drought.
And, for good measure, they maintained their undefeated status following a 26-14 victory over the Greta Branxton Colts in Friday night’s grand final at Olympic Park, Muswellbrook.
Most pundits were predicting a tough, close encounter – and that’s what the big crowd in attendance received.
The Colts, the newcomers in the format, never surrendered at any stage.
But, the experience and calmness of the Magpies under pressure proved to be the difference in the latter stages of the showdown.
The never-say-die Gaynor Blackadder put Merriwa on the board first, burrowing over from dummy half, to lead 4-0.
Soon after, Amber Austin crossed in the corner to extend that margin to 8-0.
However, the Colts hit back when Emma Thomson touched down to make it 8-4.
Justine Witney powered through the defence to give the Magpies the ascendancy at 12-4.
Greta Branxton, with Caitlin Albury, Robyn Draper, Brooke Davis and Harmony Liddell calling the shots, then responded with Rebecca Steel scoring.
Draper’s conversion saw the Colts trail just 12-10 at half-time.
The momentum seemed to favour Greta Branxton, especially when Liddell powered her way over the line.
Although the shot at goal missed, the side led 14-12 – and appeared to be in the box seat.
That’s when Blackadder, Jessyca Morgan, Maddi Blackadder, Kayla Barry, Shai Blackadder and Witney stepped up.
And, following a few big hits, the Magpies turned defence into attack.
Witney grabbed her second of the evening to regain the advantage at 16-14.
It soon became 20-14 when Kelly Maslen provided some individual brilliance to reach out over the line after a terrific run down the sideline.
In the dying seconds, Shai Blackadder sealed the triumph 26-14 with a converted try.
“It’s a great result – and about time,” Gaynor Blackadder said.
“We’ve all worked extremely hard.
“A big thanks must go to coach Matt Morgan, the support staff and those who cheer us on every week.”