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After taking out their second consecutive SG Ball premiership last weekend, Balmain claimed the National Under 18s Championship today with a 24-12 win over the Redcliffe Dolphins at North Sydney Oval.

It wasnt an easy victory though; with the Mal Meninga Cup winners Redcliffe leading 12-4 at half time before a spirited Balmain side scored 20 unanswered points.

A man-of-the-match performance from Rhys Armstrong led the Tigers to victory; with the five-eighth scoring the final two tries to steal victory from the Queensland side.

It capped off a remarkable first year in charge for Balmain Coach Mat Head who said it was a tough week for the team.

What we did last week was pretty special, the boys going back-to-back in the SG Ball was a big thing, Head said.

This week was pretty tough to get the boys motivated, we had a pretty easy week and I think you saw that in the first half,

They needed a bit of a rocket in the second half and they got that. It was outstanding to watch and I am very proud of the boys.

Head was impressed by the performance of Armstrong, who despite not playing in his favoured position led the Tigers to victory with a two-try effort.

I think he is more a back-rower, we didnt have a five-eighth so we put him there and straight away he said this isnt my position but ill do it for the team, Head said.

He took the advice I gave him all year and is really a top quality footballer and we saw that today,

Good skilful footy players; you can play them anywhere and they will do a great job.

It was Redcliffe who claimed first points with a wide-running Richie Skelton beating the Tigers left edge defenders to score. Jack Alley showed pinpoint accuracy with his kick from the sideline to put the Dolphins up 6-0 after 11 minutes.

Skelton continued to trouble the Tigers in the opening stages, with the second-rower running a good line at the Balmain right edge defenders.

Just two minutes later Balmain winger John Tohi saved his side from being further behind when he leaped above the pack to take a towering cross-field kick from Redcliffes hooker Alley.

Not long after Tohi split the Dolphins defence and made a 50 metre break up field. On the next play, Jeremy Marshall-King sent the play down the blind side with centre Tom Satterthwaite diving over in the corner. However referee Joshua McGowan called the final pass forward and Redcliffe held on to a 6-0 lead after 16 minutes.

Armstrong played a key-role in the Tigers first points, putting on a great step and offloading to a barnstorming Pio Sokobalava who crashed over. Marshall-King could not add the extras and the Dolphins held a 6-4 lead after 21 minutes.

The Tigers then had a couple of opportunities to hit the lead, but couldnt capitalise on some great attacking opportunities as they turned the ball over in a scrappy period leading into the break.

Redcliffe made the Tigers pay just before half time with Alex Albert ducking under two defenders to score next to the posts. Deacon Fletcher added the extras and the Dolphins went into the break with a commanding 12-4 lead.

It was clear Balmain were in for a big second half early, with a great kick chase and big hit from Josh Camroux on Redcliffe fullback Josh Beehag putting the pressure on the Dolphins.

Sure enough Redcliffe made an error just two tackles later and the Tigers pounced. Camden Sutton ran a perfectly timed second man play and scored just inside the left touchline. Marshall-King made up for missing an easy conversion earlier to land this one from the sideline, with the Dolphins leading 12-10 after 41 minutes.

A mistake from Sutton inside the red zone just minutes later put the pressure back on the Tigers, but the team held out the Dolphins with a great defensive effort.

An impressive kicking game from Armstrong got the Tigers out of trouble, before a fight broke out between the two sides following a big defensive effort from Balmain that forced an error.

Marshall-King then linked up with a Sutton in another set play, with the fullback drawing in the defender and putting Jayden Wheelhouse over in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful but the Tigers were in the lead for the first time, 14-12 after 53 minutes.

Armstrong then showed a touch of brilliance, slicing straight through a gaping hole in the Dolphins line 20 metres out and using his speed to find his way to the line. Marshall-King converted to make it 20-12 with 11 minutes remaining on the clock.

Just five minutes later Armstrong was at it again, finding another gap in the Dolphins tiring defence and carrying two defenders over the line to score.

Redcliffe kept testing the Tigers defence in the dying stages but could not crack the line, with Balmain claiming the title with a 24-12 victory.

Balmain Tigers 24 (Armstrong 2, Sutton, Sokobalava, Wheelhouse tries; Marshall-King 2 goals) defeated Redcliffe Dolphins 12 (Albert, Skelton tries; Alley, Fletcher goals)
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Wests Tigers respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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