CHAMPIONS: Knights under-16s players and coaching staff celebrate after beating Manly to win the Harold Matthews Cup final at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday. Picture: Newcastle Knights COACH MarkMorrissey is confident the Knights have the core of a future NRL team if they can keep the triumphant Harold Matthews side together.
The Knights produced a stunning comeback to beat Manly 26-20 in extra time in the final of the under-16s competition at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
“They are a great bunch of kids with a great work ethic,” Morrissey said. “Hopefully we can shore them up and keep them at the club. There is certainly some future first graders among them.”
In scenes reminiscent of the Knights’ famous win over Manly in the 1997 NRL grand final, Newcastle came back from the dead to win an incredible finale.
They trailed 20-16 with seconds remaining when winger Patrick Achurch dived over in the left corner to send the game into extra time.
Captain and lock Jaron Purcell did the rest, crashing over from close range in the dying moments in the first period of extra time. From there they hung on.
“With 10 seconds to go I thought the match was gone,” Morrissey said.“Then we scored in the corner to tie it up. Talk about riding your emotions. Wejust didn’t give up. We had a sign on the wall in the dressing sheds which read“nevergive up” and we fought right to the end.”
The win secured the Knights the minor-major premiership double.It is the fourth time the club haswon the under-16s competition. They were beaten in the grand final last season.
Purcell, five-eighth Max Buderus, hooker Mitchell Black, second-rower Riley Meyn and prop Tian Ma’anaima were outstanding for the Knights who completed the season undefeated.
“To be undefeated premiers in 2017 is an amazing feeling,” Purcell said.”We have players from Newcastle, Maitland, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast …to pull a team of 16-year-old boys from country areas to win a NSW State competition is amazing.A special thank you to our parents and staff for the time, effort and support they put in to help us achieve our goals this season.”
Buderus set up the Knights’ first try just before half-time,jabbing through a grubber for Meyn.
Until that point the Knights had been out-played by animpressive Manly outfit who led 10-0 early.
Although the Sea Eagles scored again early in the second half, the Red and Blues started to find their groove.
Imposing prop Christian Ma’anaima charged overin the 36th minute.Buderus converted to cut the margin to 14-10.
Soon after Meyn got his second try following an excellent run to put the Knights in front.
But Albert Hopoate scored for Manly against the run of play with just nine minutes left on the clock.
The Knights needed a hero andAchurch delivered in the final seconds.
Knights 26 (Meyn 2, Ma’anaima, Achurch, Purcell triesBuderus 3/5 conversions) btSea Eagles 20
Knights: 1Bradman Best, 2Maile J Townsend, 3Darcy Heaney, 4Cooper Jenkins, 5Patrick Achurch, 6Max Buderus, 7Kobe Davies, 16Ben Olsen, 9Mitch Black, 10Christian Ma’anaima, 11Riley Meyn, 12Harry Croker, 13Jaron Purcell. Interchange: 8Thomas Affleck, 14Ryan Potts, 15Tyler Doney, 17Sione Tuitupou Kutu.