The new kids on the block’s record breaking feats continued on Saturday with Avondale crowned Illawarra Rugby champions following their 20th win on the trot.
The Wombats got off to a flyer in the first grade decider at WIN Stadium and the Vikings could never really recover to mount a serious challenge, with Avondale prevailing 27-12.
‘’This [win] is the most sweetest of them all,’’ Avondale coach Murray McDonald said.
Avondale fullback Jacob Kara was on the end of a slick back-line move to score the first try in the grand final. The successful conversion from fly-half Silipa Tuigamala made it 7-0 after only 10 minutes.
Vikings, chasing their 14th first grade grand final in the club’s 60th year, were valiant throughout the first half, holding out Avondale attack after attack.
But all that extra defensive effort told late in the half, with the minor premiers Wombats crossing for two five-pointers just before the main break.
A period of goal-line pressure told when No 1 Anthony Amone crashed over wide to extend Avondale’s lead to 12-0.
Moments later the Wombats put an exclamation mark on the half, with classy fly-half Silipa Tuigamala scoring and converting to give Avondale a 19-0 lead at the break.
But the Vikings, the longest-running and perhaps most successful club in Illawarra Rugby history, weren’t ready to lie down just yet.
The Blueys were the first to hit the scoreboard in the second half, with captain courageous Joel Diggins crashing over under the posts.
Tommy Sowden converted to make it 19-7.
Vikings in truth played the better rugby for the next 20 minutes.
The yellow card infringement to Avondale scrum-half Andrew Duggan did not help matters.
But the Wombats weathered the storm playing a man down for 10 minutes and when Tuigamala potted through a penalty goal they extended their lead to 15.
Vikings hit back almost immediately, with No 8 Joshua Heggie barging over to score under the posts. Sowden though missed from right in front, leaving the score at 22-12 to Avondale.
Celebrations began in earnest when Anthony Amone crashed for his second five-pointer late in the game.
‘’It’s been a tremendous season,’’ coach McDonald said.
‘’I’m just so happy for these guys. They are the most talented bunch of players I’ve ever seen.
‘’They were tested in that second half but they stood up and did the job.
‘’At one stage we had two in the bin but the 13 guys on the field just backed each other all the way. It’s a great win against a very good Vikings side.’’
Vikings assistant coach Stu Roodenrys praised his young side’s gallant display.
‘’They are a good side. You don’t win 20 straight if you are not a good side,’’ he said.
‘’But we were good. It was a performance of spirit and heart from our players. You can’t fault their commitment to the cause.
‘’These young players will learn a lot and be better for this performance in the future.’’
Avondale captain Andre Ltula was a threat throughout in attack and was deservedly named player of the match.