The Balmain Tigers have won back-to-back SG Ball titles for the first time in the club's proud history with a rousing 14-6 win over the Penrith Panthers at St Marys Leagues Stadium in a heart-stopping clash.
The tough Tigers outfit defended their way to victory against the highly fancied Panthers outfit, with prop and co-captain Fosio Tatola awarded the official man-of-the-match award for a tireless effort in the middle of the field. Fellow co-captain Matthew Woods also starred, along with halfback Jeremy Marshall-King and lock Peter Taauso, who scored the opening try.
After defending their line stoutly in the opening minutes the Tigers took advantage of their opportunities in the 20th minute, when Taauso crashed over under the posts, only seven minutes after having a try disallowed for an obstruction.
Marshall-Kings conversion put their lead to 6-0, but the Panthers had the majority of the field position and possession for the remainder of the half, only to be held out by the rampant tacking of Balmain.
A penalty goal early in the second half to Marshall-King extended the Tigers lead to 8-0 after 41 minutes, and they started to control the game from this point onwards.
The Panthers couldnt be put away however, and started throwing everything at Balmain mid-way through the second half, only for the Tigers to go back down the other end and extend their lead again when Jayden Wheelhouse jumped above the pack and scored off a Marshall-King bomb.
The missed conversion kept Penrith alive with 13 minutes to go, and they hit straight back in the 60th minute through captain Sione Utia-Katoa who caught his own bomb next to the posts and shrugged off a defender to score and close the gap to 12-6.
With the momentum in the game the Panthers started to cause problems for the Tigers otherwise brick-wall defence. A bust down the left side by Peter Tiatia looked to have Penrith under the posts and level within the final 10 minutes, only for Woods to pull off a spectacular cover tackle and shut down the play.
Jack Wheelhouse sparked the Tigers out of dummy half, and got them back downfield on the back of a penalty, and a Panthers error in their next set gave the Tigers the change to secure the win. With just two minutes remaining Marshall-King secured the win another penalty 15m out just to the left of the posts, extending the lead to an unassailable 14-6.
A fiery end to the game didnt worry the Tigers, who held on to win and secure back-to-back SG Ball premierships, the first time in their history and the first club to do so since Parramatta in 1988/89.
The Tigers will now look to defend the National U/18s Championship next Sunday at North Sydney Oval when they take on the Redcliffe Dolphins, kicking off at 1pm.
Balmain Tigers 14 (P Taauso, J Wheelhouse Tries; J Marshall-King 3/4 Goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 6 (S Utia-Katoa Try; T May 1/1 Goal)