Newcastle Rugby League: Macquarie Scorpions soak up grand final glory | video, photos

STACKS ON: Macquarie players embrace each other after Randall Briggs' intercept-try in the closing stages of Saturday's decider. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
STACKS ON: Macquarie players embrace each other after Randall Briggs' intercept-try in the closing stages of Saturday's decider. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

It was the grand final they were never supposed to win.

Underdogs, written off against odds-on favourites, beaten 35-8 by the same team only a fortnight ago, without five of their regular first grade squad to injury and having lost the last two Newcastle Rugby League deciders. 

But somehow, almost purely through sheer will and determination, Macquarie found a way to end a 26-year premiership drought with an emotionally-driven 24-6 upset win over Western Suburbs at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

2017 Newcastle RL grand final courtesy of BarTv Sports

The belief was always there between the boys in green and gold, even before kick-off, but bit-by-bit during 80 minutes they gradually managed to build an unstoppable wave of momentum the more fancied Rosellas just couldn’t handle.

Then dreams became reality.

With less than two minutes remaining on the clock and leading by 12 the Scorpions could almost taste victory, but utility Randall Briggs sealed the deal with an intercept try against the run of play.

He sprinted 60 metres down the western touchline, raised his first triumphantly in the air and crossed right in front of the Toronto faithful. 

TRIUMPH: Scorpions fans celebrate Randall Briggs' premiership-sealing try. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TRIUMPH: Scorpions fans celebrate Randall Briggs' premiership-sealing try. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

It was the memorable moment when the sought-after silverware was destined for Lyall Peacock Field for just the second time.

Man-of-the-match Daniel Abraham, in his final game of rugby league, added the inconsequential extras at his favourite ground before the fans stormed the field. 

Macquarie junior Scott Briggs, alongside two of his brothers, was reduced to tears after finally claiming the trophy he’s chased his entire career.

Skipper Chris Hyde said it was the best feeling he’s had in 20 years of playing.

And coach Adam Bettridge, following the traditional drenching, greeted the extended Scorpions family one-by-one on the way to the dressing sheds before joining his troops and belting out a spirited rendition of the team song.

DRENCHED: Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge gets an unexpected on-field shower from skipper Chris Hyde. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

DRENCHED: Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge gets an unexpected on-field shower from skipper Chris Hyde. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“We probably played the perfect game,” Bettridge said. “It’s all about believing. I’m so proud of the boys.”

The opening half hour was an old-fashioned arm wrestle with neither side giving much away.

Wests struck the first blow with second-rower Ben Stone crashing over next to the sticks. The competition’s leading point scorer Sam Keenan converted to give the minor premiers a 6-0 lead. 

Macquarie returned serve six minutes later with Nathan Hinton, a late replacement for injured winger Ryan Pywell, diving into the nor-eastern corner after centre Nathan Cantor delivered a Matt Gidley-like flick pass for the second straight week. 

Wests took a 6-4 lead into the break.

From there it was basically all one-way traffic with the Scorpions running in 20 unanswered points throughout the second half.

Fullback Matt Simon kicked off proceedings when his restart went over the Rosellas’ dead ball line. From the ensuing set of six halfback Andy Sumner scored and five-eighth Briggs converted for a 10-6 advantage.   

In the 52nd minute Sumner sliced through down the left and set up centre Mitch Manson for a four-pointer. 

Briggs then kicked a penalty goal with 11 minutes left to make the margin two converted tries.

PHOTOS: Celebrations underway for Macquarie Scorpions