PORT Macquarie Sharks claimed back-to-back Group 3 reserve grade premierships when they held on 18-14 on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks trailed minor premiers Old Bar 10-0 early, but they refused to give in with fullback Joel Antilla’s second try seven minutes from full-time enough to allow them to sneak home.
Captain-coach Chris Green conceded his side started the match slow, but they always felt confident they would have their opportunities to win it.
“We did do it the tough way; we dropped plenty of ball, but got the job done,” he said.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”
The first half was an arm wrestle with neither side willing to give an inch.
Tryscoring opportunities were few and far between and Old Bar jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.
“We had to get into the roll of the game,” Green said.
“They had a big pack so we knew they’d dominate in the middle of the park, but once we got in the swing of things we came into our own with the quicker blokes.
“Two years in a row, to go back to back we couldn’t be happier and as a coach it makes it even more special.”
The Sharks made errors at inopportune times and handed possession and field position back to the Pirates who couldn’t convert at various stages throughout the first half.
Fullback Joel Antilla scored on the stroke of half-time to give the home side a sniff in the second half.
It came after halfback Karrim McKittrick was held-up over the line in the set of six before with some desperate goal-line defence.
Lock forward Dennis Jones tried to lift his side with some bone-jarring defence which at times sailed close to the wind.
Jones then put his side in front with 18 minutes left in the match when he crashed over alongside the posts.
Their lead was short lived when Old Bar winger Michael Ridgeway swooped on a kick to score in the corner to put the minor premiers back in front.
Sharks prop Matt Jones celebrated his birthday with man of the match honours as judged by Group 3.
“It couldn’t go to a more deserving person, he’s been our best player all year,” Green said.
Green was confident his side could score enough points if they could get their hands on the ball in good field position.
“We’ve got plenty of belief in ourselves because we’ve been in the same situation plenty of times this season,” Green said.
Green said fullback Antilla was one of their best all year.
He was satisfied to see him score two tries.
Green said both premierships were both special in their own way.
“Every premiership you win is just as good.”