SAINTS RECLAIM KNIGHTS CUP
Saints lead from start to finish to win the Newcastle Knights Cup
The MacKillop Saints Open Boys team won the Newcastle Knights Cup for the first time since their maiden victory in 2015, by defeating the reigning premiers, St. John’s College, last Friday at Saints Field.
In front of a healthy crowd filled with supporters from both sides, the Saints ran out 22 to 4 point winners in what was an entertaining affair.
Interviewed before the game, coach Matthew Sharp indicated that he felt confident of a good showing against St. John’s, and that he wanted his forward pack to set the tempo in the first ten minutes by really committing to their defence. Sharp got his wish, and heavy hitting from starting props Ethan Gregory and Zane McConnell set MacKillop up with quality field position in the opening stanzas of play. This territorial advantage led to debutant Harry Hall’s first of two tries that afternoon, right on the tenth minute of play.
Play was tight between both sides during the mid-sections of the first half with St. John’s and MacKillop continuing to go set for set up and down the pitch. The injection of club captain, Jayden Hunter, off the bench in the final ten minutes of the half soon led to points courtesy of one of his characteristic barnstorming runs. Hunter brushed off multiple defenders to score beneath the uprights and give veteran halfback, Phil Vo, an easy conversion.
No further points were to be scored in the first half and the Saints went into the half time break with a lead of 12 points.
After the break, a rejuvenated St. John’s attack enjoyed the bulk of possession in the early stages, assisted by some uncharacteristic mistakes by the home side. MacKillop did well to hold out St. John’s, until a Saints knock on on their own goal line led to a St. John’s repeat set and an open invitation to score their first points of the contest. The conversion missed and scores were close at 12 to 4 with 20 minutes remaining in play.
Echoing the opening half, MacKillop and St. John’s went set for set without points for the next ten minutes and it looked like whoever scored next, would potentially run away with the game.
The Saints defensive line held strong, led by Italian exchange student and Saints debutant, Stefano Travaglino, who really muscled up in defence and was capably supported by senior players John Aitken, Ricky Fenwick and Ronan Korljan.
Eventually weathering the St. John’s evasive attacking storm, MacKillop added to their tally when Harry Hall stepped through the line from first receiver and scored close by the uprights again for another Phil Vo conversion to take the Saints up to a 14 point lead. Soon after, Jayden Hunter grabbed the second of his brace of tries for the afternoon by scoring out wide towards the sideline.
At 22 to 4 and only minutes before the full time siren, St. John’s launched one final attacking raid. On a run away down the sideline, St. John’s looked certain to score on a 60m breakaway before 2018 Saints MVP fullback, Stefano George, made yet another trademark try saving tackle to end the breakaway, 1m off the Saints line. George had no choice but to give away a penalty in the play the ball while the rest of the Saints defence caught up the the play and was sent for 10 in the bin for a professional foul. It was of little consequence however, as MacKillop saw out the final sets with 12 men and finished the game as Newcastle Knights Cup champions for 2019.
At the conclusion of the match, opposition coach, Shinya Nagaike, congratulated Coach Sharp for his team's win and then presented captain for the day in his final performance, Liam Gardner, with the Knights Cup. Gardner thanked St. John’s for a tough hit out and wished them luck in their pursuit of the cup in 2020.
With this result, we wave farewell to our Year 12 players and thank them for their years of service. They leave our rugby league programme knowing that they went out as champions, and that regardless of whether they play again or not, the will always be MacKillop Saints. Farewell and thanks for the memories - Phil Vo, Liam Gardner, Ronan Korljan, Ethan Gregory, John Aitken, Ricky Fenwick, Stefano Travaglino, Aidan Smith and Year 11 student, Josh Bates.
Attention now turns to Week 10 where MacKillop host the NRLNT Gala Day for the u15s Boys and the u16s Girls, who will be looking to back up their maiden Eels Cup premiership from earlier in the year.