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Dragons dig deep to claim back-to-back Laurie Daley Cups

South Coast Illawarra Dragons have claimed back-to-back SLE Laurie Daley Cups after a thrilling 26-24 win over a gallant Monaro Colts in the Grand Final at Woy Woy Oval today.

The Dragons were forced to dig deep after the Colts surged to an 18-14 lead early in the second-half but stormed home with back-rower and Player of the Match Jarrah Treweek sealing the result with his third try for the game.

“That was a game between two great sides,” Dragons coach Peter Hooper said.

“They gave us a touch-up early in the rounds and we did a lot of homework on trying to stop their middle forwards and I think we did a pretty good job today.”

It was a gutsy effort by the Colts, with hooker Xavier Cacciotti stealing the show after grabbing all four of their tries. It was the second time Cacciotti had bagged a quartet against the Dragons after he also grabbed four tries in the 40-16 win over them in Round Two.

“He’s a very, very good player,” Colts coach Brenden Bradley said.

“He’s played a lot of SG Ball this year and I think the world is his oyster. Very smart, very tough, good speed, he’s an all-rounder.

“We probably just put a little bit too much pressure on ourselves today with a lot of turnover and possession and had to do a lot of defence in the first half.”

The Colts were under siege in the opening minutes, but their defence was up to the challenge. They got off to a tough start after back-rower Mark Connors fumbled the kick-off over the sideline and were lucky on another occasion after Dragons centre Clay Baldock lost the ball with a try beckoning.

Conceding back-to-back penalties put them under further pressure and the Dragons looked like they had made them pay after fullback Jackson Rieck fired a cut-out pass for Toby Rumble to score in the corner, but the last pass was ruled forward and the try was disallowed.

The Dragons finally broke the deadlock when Rieck picked up back-rower Jarrah Treweek, who used his strength to push through the defence before stretching out to plant the ball down over the line. Rieck missed the conversion to leave the score at 4-0.

The Dragons went further ahead after Rumble showed great speed to make a break down the sideline with Colts fullback Alexander Sweeney coming up short after making a desperate lunge in the last line of defence. Rieck had no issues with the conversion this time to extend the lead to 10-0.

The Colts pegged one back after hooker Xavier Cacciotti dived over from dummy-half for his first try of the afternoon. Blake Hovi landed the extras to reduce the deficit to 10-6.

The Dragons regained the ascendency in the final minute before half-time when Rieck picked up Treweek again; the back-rower dummying to his outside before fending off the goal-line defence to grab his second try for the match. Rieck missed the conversion to leave the score 14-6 at half-time.

Cacciotti started the second half in blistering fashion after grabbing consecutive tries to put the Colts in front 18-14. His first for the second half came after he backed up Hovi close to the line while his second was another dive close to the line.

The Dragons roared back to life when captain Ashton O’Dea turned a nice ball back inside for Hodges to make a break, who in turn picked up centre Darnell Te Ahuru on his outside to score. Rieck landed the conversion to put the Dragons back in front 20-14.

“We’ve been working since November and today no matter how uncomfortable we got I knew we’d come out the other end at certain patches,” Hooper said.

“Obviously Jarrah twice pulled up for a nice play on that edge, and seeing Jarrah score his third try if you’re pushing up in that area, we don’t get the win.

“It’s very pleasing that we’ve been working for six months for here.”

Hodges backed that play up after putting his halfback Jarrod Tiyce away who found Treweek in support to grab his third try for the afternoon. Rieck landed the conversion to extend the lead and give the Dragons some breathing space at 26-18.

Cacciotti set up a thrilling finish when he dived over the line for his fourth try of the day but the Colts turned the ball over in the final minute and the Dragons held on for a memorable 26-24 win and make it consecutive premierships.

“We won last season so this is really good because it’s really hard to make a second Grand Final let alone win it,” Hooper said.

“I’m just really pleased for the boys for the amount of work they’ve done, they believed in themselves and they got what they deserved today.”

South Coast Illawarra Dragons 26 (Jarrah Treweek 3, Toby Rumble, Darnell Te Ahuru tries; Jackson Rieck 3 goals) def Monaro Colts 24 (Xavier Cacciotti 4 tries; Blake Hovi 4 conversions) at Woy Woy Oval.  

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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