29 April 2024

As seen on nswrl.com

The U17 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs wāhine etched their place in history with a convincing  36-0 win over the Wests Tigers in the inaugural Grand Final of the Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup.

Winger Asha Taumoepeau-Williams continued what she’s been producing all season for the Under 17s girls. She had 11 tries coming into today’s decider and ratcheted that up to 15 by the end of the match.

But the one to snatch Player of the Match was hooker Mary-Jane Taito for her scheming work around the ruck and her relentless defence.

Former dual international Lisa Fiaola presented the match ball to Taito and congratulated five-eighth Evelyn Roberts, who scored two tries today, after she was named Player of the Series.

Taito and Roberts were just two of the young kiwi wāhine who made the move to Sydney to join the Bulldogs side. They were joined by Seriah Palepale, Lahnayah Daniel, Paige Tauaneai, Trinity Tauaneai, Josinah Filisi Tauiliili, and Giovanna Suani. 

Bulldogs coach Michael Stuart had warned his team not to expect everything to go their way in the finals even though they had been the dominant team all season to finish as Minor Premiers.

“Finals is a whole new competition, so we prepared a little bit differently to reflect that,” Stuart told nswrl.com.au

The Bulldogs beat the Newcastle Knights 22-4 in last weekend’s Semi-final to concede just one try in two matches while scoring 13 of their own.

“The girls deserve it, they’ve had a long, hard seven months and this is just the icing on the cake,” Stuart said.

“We’ve got a lot of local girls in the team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team bond and come together as quick as these girls have.”

As for his winger’s four tries: “She’s only 15; turns 16 in November; and she’s a superstar.”

Taumoepeu-Williams said she had scored four tries before for her junior club in New Zealand.

“But it feels good to do it today,” she said. “We’ve bonded so well in a short amount of time. My teammates are my friends and like family.”

And as for the secret to scoring so often in a grand final?

“I just trusted my team.”

This was the Bulldogs 10th straight victory – eight in the regular season and two finals.

It might have been first versus fifth on the ladder, but the Wests Tigers mustered a fine Semi-final win with a 32-14 upset over the second-placed Illawarra Steelers.

Although they tried hard, they were denied possession today and were outclassed in the middle and on the edges.

A try in the opening minute, and then three more in a six minute period later in the first half, helped the Bulldogs to a commanding 18-0 half-time lead.

They gobbled up possession, restricting the Wests Tigers to only two entries into their territory for the first 30 minutes.

It was the Bulldogs right edge that shone – three of their first four tries came down that channel.

The first try was off a Tigers mistake in the opening set. On the third play the Bulldogs shot the ball through the hands for Taumoepeau-Williams to score his first for the day – her 12th for the season.

She followed up with a second in the 18th minute after a neat chip kick from halfback and skipper Olivia Vaalele.

The other first-half tries came from second rower Aliahana Fuimaono – cousin of Westpac NSW Sky Blues utility Taliah Fuimaono – who put on a mighty left fend to see her way to the chalk.

Then in the 20th minute five-eighth Evelyn Roberts stepped off her left foot, then her right, for a fine individual try.

The Wests Tigers were awarded the only penalty of the first half but were unable to capitalise.

In the second half the dominance continued with another three tries, including Taumoepeau-Williams grabbing her third and fourth.

Roberts bagged her second and centre Lahnayah Daniel got onto the scoresheet supporting Roberts, who drew in the defence on the left edge.

The win in the metropolitan version of the Lisa Fiaola Cup followed a 22-8 win by the Western Rams 22-8 over the Northern Tigers last March in the regional NSW competition of the same name.

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