2019 Country Championships
Illawarra have fallen short in their bid to defend the Caldwell Cup at the NSW Country Championships in Tamworth.
The defending champions claimed a 21-17 victory over Central Coast in Saturday's semi-final. The win set up a rematch of the 2018 decider against Central West, who overcame Mid North Coast in the other semi-final.
Central West proved far too good for the Illawarriors, with the Blue Bulls blasting their opponents off the park during a dominant opening 40 minutes.
The Bulls scored in the third minute and never looked back, jumping out to a 31-0 half-time lead. Illawarra fought back in the second, ultimately going down 45-21.
The Illawarra colts team finished third at the competition, with the boys claiming a comprehensive 57-15 victory over Central North in Sunday's third-place playoff.
2018 Country Champions
Two tries in the eight minutes before half-time has setup Illawarra’s Caldwell Cup victory over Central West at Warren in the 2018 Caldwell Cup Country Rugby Championship.
The Illawarriors led by three after 28 minutes, but went to the break with a 20-15 lead, before securing a 37-15 triumph.
No.8 and captain Paul Tuala said the success, having beaten Mid-North Coast in the semi-final 55-22, was almost three months in the making.
“Ten weeks ago, we set out a goal,” he said.
“To first of all bond. And funnily enough we didn’t bond until our last training.
“But it said a lot of our character … we got the win.”
The Illawarriors had several players including past representative players Jesse Roach, Andy Papworth and Aaron Louden along with Andre Itula, JP Nel and Todd Pearce unavailable because of injury.
Meanwhile, Illawarra beat Central Coast 38-22 in the third-placed playoff in the Colts under 19s division.