Brothers make defending champions earn win the hard way
WHILE halfback Steven West was justifiably man of the match in Norths' A grade grand final win over Brothers yesterday, centre Tonga Mounga was not far behind.
Mounga had been a standout in last year's decider when Norths won easily against Brothers.
Again he proved the value of his and winger Anava Fesolai's remarkable right edge combination.
Norths led 8-4 at half-time, with neither side able to assert dominance.
It looked as though Norths had taken steps to address the fact at half-time however.
On the second tackle following the restart Norths winger Matthew Bettiens carried the ball across field, 10m out from his own try line.
He linked with Mounga, who accelerated into a hole before giving a perfectly timed flick pass to winger Anava Fesolai who blew away the cover defence for a 90m try.
"The boys told me I could have passed the ball normally," a jubilant Mounga said after the game.
"But when Nav (Fesolai) is cutting back in he is hard to stop."
It was a moment of class we have come to expect from both players.
But Mounga's greatest contribution to yesterday's hard-fought win was the work he did in the middle of the ruck, taking the heat of the Norths forwards. He doubled as one of his team's best forwards.
The metres he made carting the ball up into the teeth of the Brothers defence as important as any try.
"I had to," he said of the less glamorous role he played.
"They said they needed me helping the forwards more and giving them a break."
It gave Mounga a greater appreciation of what his forwards have to go through and he was full of praise for Norths workhorses Jacob Stephan and Chris Scanlan in particular.
Mounga said this year's grand final win was sweeter than last year's, for one simple reason.
"It was a better Brothers team than last year," he said.
Last year Brothers limped into the decider having worn themselves out in semis.
This year's team was peaking for the big day and pushed Norths harder than many thought they could.
Monga's try made it 14-6 to Norths, but every time the Tigers scored in the second half, Brothers hit back immediately.
When centre Shaun Daylight put a brutal fend on a Norths defender to score it was back to 14-10.
With Brothers a man down following the sin binning of lock Denman Ah-You, Norths captain and last year's grand final man of the match Josh Roberts chose his moment to put his mark on the game.
Roberts had been relatively quiet until he took the ball 15m out from the Brothers line and exploded past the defence to score and give his team a 20-10 lead with 21 minutes left.
Again Brothers found the means to hit back almost immediately, when the ball was kept alive for Aaron Bennett to cross in the right corner to trail by four.
West extended the lead to eight with a penalty goal with 16 minutes to go.
But Brothers kept coming and Jack Boettcher's well deserved try set up a tense finish that forced the Tigers to dig as deep as they have all season to hang on.