The Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy have claimed their second consecutive Tarsha Gale Cup title, coming from behind to defeat the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 26-22 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday evening.
Tavarna Papalii dominated the middle of the park, making show-stopping tackles to halt the Bulldogs throughout the match - a performance that earned her the Player of the Match award. Skipper Ally Bullman made history on Saturday evening, as the only player in the Tarsha Gale Cup competition to ever win back-to-back Premierships.
After being down at half-time, the Roosters found their way back into the match through tries scored by Lailani Montgomery and Brooke Talataina, while keeping the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half, defending for their second title and a chance to make history as the only team to ever go back-to-back in the Tarsha Gale Competition.
Match: Indigenous Academy v Bulldogs
Grand Final -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
The Roosters got off to a flying start, with halfback Skyla Adams placing a high bomb into the air that was spilt by the Bulldogs' defence.
On the resuming play, the Indigenous Academy sent the ball left to their captain Ally Bullman, who set up for the opening try Paige Lowe on the wing. Mia Barber kicked the conversion from touch to give her team a six point lead in the fourth minute.
Canterbury-Bankstown responded four minutes later after Ambryn Murphy-Haua chipped a kick over the in-goal that was dived on by Tatiana Finau. The second-rower converted her own try to level the scores.
A chip and chase from Murphy-Haua assisted the Bulldogs to double their score in the 12th minute, with Finau kicking the conversion to make the tally 12-6 in favour of the minor premiers.
An infringement off the restart gave Canterbury-Bankstown the chance to strike again only two minutes later. Receiving a short-ball from Tarli Dennis, Noaraia Kapua charged straight through the Roosters' defence, powering all the way to the try-line to claim four more points for her team. Finau's conversion gave the blue and white a 12-point advantage.
After the Bulldogs knocked the ball on off the kick-off, the Tricolours used their dominant field position to claim points through Jaydah Tofae who crashed over after recieving a quick-ball. Barber nailed the conversion to reduce the deficit to six.
In the 21st minute, Canterbury-Bankstown utilised a right-edge overlap to send Abby Aros soaring down the sideline to score in the corner. Finau couldn't kick the conversion from touch, leaving the score at 22-12.
Utilising back-to-back sets, the Tricolours found themselves within their attacking half in the final minute of play. Receiving a penalty for a hair pull, Easts sent the ball right, finding fullback Krystal Bulmer in the line, who faked a pass to her left before fending off a defender and crashing over. Barber's kick waved way from the goal, leaving the score at 22-16 as the siren sounded.
Four minutes after half-time, Roosters hooker Imogen Hei scrambled to gather a loose ball within 10 metres of the stripe. Sending the ball from right to left, the Indigenous Academy found Lailani Montgomery unmarked on the wing.
As the defence rushed in, the centre held strong, putting the ball on the line to bring her team within two points of the opposition.
The Bulldogs knocked the ball on with six minutes remaining, giving the Roosters a golden opportunity to steal the lead through five-eighth Brooke Talataina off the scrum. Barber added the extras to give the Indigenous Academy a four-point advantage.
Defending for the premiership, the Roosters held out the Bulldogs in the dying minutes to secure back-to-back titles
Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy 26 (Paige Lowe, Jaydah Tofae, Krystal Bulmer, Lailani Montgomery, Brooke Talataina tries, Mia Barber 3 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 22 (Tatiana Finau, Tarli Dennis, Noaria Kapua, Abby Aros tries, Tatiana Finau 3 goals)