Souths have claimed revenge for their semi-final defeat two weeks ago, holding firm against Wests in an 18-14 sudden-death golden point duel at St John Oval to step into their third consecutive Newcastle Rugby League grand final.
The Rosellas were the first on the board in the Blues Tag preliminary final, with halves leader Nicole Stanfield bursting through the line to score her first of two tries for the afternoon. Kristy Houghton added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
Abby Frazer struck back in the 24th minute, but a penalty for Wests soon after – which Houghton slotted home – kept the Rosellas four points clear.
Jacqui Moriarty levelled the score down the right flank in the 40th minute, and the locked scores stuck until the final whistle after both Stanfield and Frazer notched their second in Charlestown.
Houghton had already kicked Wests’ first chance to give them a 14-8 lead, and leading pointscorer Amy Waterhouse added two vital points after Frazer’s 58th-minute effort to make sure the two rivals would be heading out of extra-time squared at 14-14.
Enter Olivia Higgins and Chantelle Graham. As time ticked on in golden point, Higgins found a hole in Wests’ line and dropped the ball into Graham’s out-stretched hands.
With Rosellas defenders pouring out behind her, the Souths number 10 charged the final 20 metres for the winning try, sending the Lionesses back to the decider.
“We were fortunate enough to score the winning try in golden point, because it seemed to go forever,” Souths coach Craig Higgins told the Women’s Chronicle.
“When we were down 14-12 it was pretty nervy, you’re always worried. Amy slotted it straight through though. I thought we had their measure overall, we scored four tries to two, but they put in a hell of an effort as well.
Now the Lionesses will contest their third straight grand final against the 2019 minor premiers Central at McDonald Jones Stadium next Sunday. It’s a contest Higgins truly believes his Souths girls can win, if they “aim up” when it matters.
“Yeah, we got beat in one semi, and then won this, so we’re the team that has something to prove going into the grand final now – they’re the minor premiers so they’re the team to beat,” the Lionesses boss said of his squad’s underdog status.
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The Souths lost last year to the Rosellas, after winning the competition’s inaugural season. Now they have the chance to become the first club to win twice.
“The girls know what they’re doing, they’ve been there before and some have even had the experience in Rick Stone’s Newcastle side too,” Higgins said.
“The whole team is ready to play. We had 90 minutes last week so we’re going to take it easy in the build-up, no need to punish ourselves. The team has proven that we can do it though, we’re 1-1 with Central and we’re the only one to beat them.
“We are the underdogs, and we have nothing to lose. We’re embracing that, and I believe that these girls can do it. I think it’s going to be a real cracking match.”
Gates open at McDonald Jones Stadium for all Newcastle Rugby League finals at 9.30am next Sunday morning. The Blues Tag decider between Central and Souths is penned in to begin at 9.40am as the day’s opening clash.