In a disappointing end to the Illawarriors Country week campaign, Central West took home the Caldwell Cup with a well-deserved 45 – 21win in the 2019 Country Championship Final at Scully Park, Tamworth. In a powerful well executed first forty minutes the Blue Bulls completely shut the Illawarriors out scoring five tries to take a 31 – 0 advantage to the half-time break.
The much more committed Bulls steamrolled the Illawarriors who failed to compete with their opponents at the breakdown and lacked line speed in defense. Central West took full advantage as the try scoring opportunities came on the back of a wealth of possession and field position.
With Player of the Tournament Half Back Shahid Khalfan and Fly-Half Mahe Fangupo making full use of their forwards hard work, all the tries came to their backs. Center Filisone Pauta scored twice with tries also going to Fangupo, wingman Joe Nash and star center Lachie Harris. With three conversions by Fullback Ben Lennahan the halftime lead was to prove insurmountable for the Illawarriors.
To their credit the Illawarriors came out after the break a different side actually outscoring the new Champions in the second half 21 -14 to somewhat redeem themselves. Competing much more physically at the breakdown and with much improved line speed in defense they produced a much improved effort through the half. Unfortunately though with all the damage done in the first half the Caldwell Cup trophy was always heading out west with the Bulls thoroughly deserving the victory.
Winger Henry Yuill scored after three minutes of the second half when Halfback Tom Baker produced a well-directed cut out pass setting Yuill free down the left side touchline. Soon after though Illawarra’s No.8 Jack Parsons was binned and the Bulls produced their best for the half running in two tries during Parsons absence.
With the Illawarriors working much better in tight the complexion of the game changed with the Bulls opportunities to play fast open football somewhat curtailed. The Bulls however were still competing strongly in close and two tries came through their forwards who still held a slight edge over the Illawarriors especially at the set piece. Hooker Peter Fitzsimmons crossed first from a rolling maul before Lock Shaun McHugh scored an outstanding try in which he handled twice before running thirty meters to score wide on the right for a commanding 45 – 7 lead with twenty four left on the clock.
After the Illawarra coaching staff made several positional and personnel changes the side gained the ascendancy and finished the better over the final twenty minutes. Tom Baker picked his way through the Bulls defense from close range to score his sides second try raising the spirits of his team mates.
The Bulls lost Flanker Dan Ryan to the bin after a string of infringements with a little over ten left. Another try to Yuill after a clever long distance pass by Lachlan Huntington in the final few minutes ended the scoring for the afternoon.
The Caldwell Cup will now reside out West until the Country Championships once again returns to Tamworth in 2020.
Central West 45 (Filisone Pauta 2 tries, Joe Nash 1 try, Mahe Fangupo 1 try, Lachie Harris 1 try, Peter Fitzsimmons 1 try, Shaun McHugh 1 try, Ben Lennehan 5 goals)
Def Illawarriors 21 (Henry Yuill 2 tries, Tom Baker 1 try, Lachlan Huntington 3 goals)
The Illawarrior Colts secured third spot in the Colts Tournament with a resounding 57 – 15 win over host zone Central North. Outstanding wingman Blake Gurney added three tries to his weekend tally the first of which was scored straight off the Kick-Off. Another outstanding performance came from Fly-Half Cooper Hanson who had a hand in several tries and kicked six goals. The very talented Illawarra backrower Harvey Austin was announced as the Colts Player of the Tournament which he can add to the similar award he won recently at the Country Under 18 Championships.
The Lady Illawarriors were force to forfeit their Play Off match due to a high number of injuries sustained in their Saturday fixtures.