THREE tries in the last seven minutes allowed North Newcastle to save face but not the game as Redfern All Blacks won the NSW women’s rugby league grand 26-16 at Leichhardt Oval.
Redfern scored four tries in the first half, and North were fortunate that wayward goalkicking from hooker Chloe Leupepe meant they were facing only a 16-0 deficit at the break.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, the scoreline read 26-0 to the Sydney team, but North rallied with tries by Kylie Hilder (73rd minute), Holli Wheeler (77th) and Isabelle Kelly (79th) to salvage some pride.
In their first season under the North Newcastle banner – after previous incarnations as Maitland and the Hunter Stars – the Bluebags finished fourth and survived three sudden-death play-offs to reach the decider.
Centres Taleena Simon and Karri Doyle both scored first-half doubles for Redfern.
All Blacks 26 (T Simon 2, K Doyle 2, N Davis-Welsh, C Leupepe tries; Leaupepe goal) North Newcastle 16 (K Hilder, H Wheeler, I Kelly tries; C Moran 2 goals).
AAP reports: Australia's women's rugby league team thumped Papua New Guinea 42-4 in their historic clash in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The match was the first Test between the two nations, with the PNG Orchids forming for this year's World Cup.
Split into four quarters because of the oppressive heat and humidity, the match was dominated by the Jillaroos, who proved far too professional for the gutsy Orchids in what was also the first women's Test match in the country.
Co-captains Renae Kunst and Steph Hancock led from the front for Australia with three tries between them in the first half as the visitors took a commanding 30-0 lead into the break.
After a physical start, outside back Corban McGregor opened the scoring after seven minutes with a try that Chelsea Baker failed to convert.
Kody House went over in the corner in the 33rd minute after replacing debutant winger Jessica Sergis, who had come from the field due to heat stress.
Fellow debutant Talesha Quinn scored her first try for the Jillaroos just before the halftime break.
Tries to Meg Ward and Sergis soon after the break were both converted by Baker, who finished with a haul of ten points from her five successful kicks.
The packed crowd roared when rampaging prop Maima Wei scored the first ever try for the Orchids late in the game.
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald hailed Hancock's performance after she had been left out of the side for the Anzac Test against New Zealand in May.
"For her to come back the way that she did ... I'm extremely proud of her," he said.
Donald praised the Orchids for their relentless defence.
Orchids coach Dennis Miall was happy his team were able to test themselves against the No. 1-ranked Jillaroos.
"We're proud of what our girls did today," he said.