Wildcats Maul the Knights in Championship Upset

By Daniel Andruczyk at Greenwich High School Stadium

New York Knights 10 (00) – 42 (20) Connecticut Wildcats

All season the New York Knights have been the dominant team, in fact they have been the dominant team in the last few years. Their main rivals through this period have been the Connecticut Wildcats and with memory of last years Grand Final loss the Wildcats were out for some revenge. The Knights had a 100% record in the season and an 83% record of winning games with 20+ points. In the first round they had a close encounter with the Wildcats winning 36-38 at home in Manhattan but this showed one of two things, that the Cats can get them if their guard is let down and the Knights and Cats by far are the two best teams in the whole AMNRL competition both with an 86% record of winning with 20+ points coming into the Grand Final.

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The Knights were coming in as favourites. The Connecticut Public Television was there to broadcast the game and about 150 fans come out to see the two heavyweights slug it out. From the kick off though it was evident that this game things were to be different. The Wildcats had a lot more energy and tactically things were working well for them. The opening set of 6 for the wildcats saw them kick deep into the Knights left corner and Fullback Jason Elliot was caught by the chasers on his 15 yards, this set the pace for the match and this would be a feature of the Wildcats all game, the kicking game and chase was outstanding whereas the Knights lacked any sort of attacking flair and seemed to run flat. An early knock on in the Knights third set saw the Wildcats with a great opportunity to attack and took full advantage with hooker Matt Walsh dashing in to score the opening try after only 4 minutes of play.

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This seemed to jolt the Knights out of their lull and they started to attack more forcefully making good yards up the side lines. However poor options swinging the ball back into the middle and poor kicking from the halves saw the Wildcats defence be able to endure 4 sets of tackles after numerous line drop outs including a  monster 50 yarder. It took another 20 minutes, but Man of the Match Kristian Freed started to assert his dominance on the match and went over for the Cats second. This opened the flood gates and very quickly two more tries were posted in quick succession for the Wildcats to head into the half time break 20 – 0.

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Like War at the Shore matches, the Final featured two referees on field, similar to the NRL and the field was wider to make it closer to a regulation League field. Both Referees had good games letting the game flow when needed. But the mistakes pilled up for the knights who could not hold onto the ball in critical situations close to the Wildcats line. After the break Gareth Gibbs was in only after 2 minutes, the first of his two tries and again this got the gates open. Michael Goward was in again soon after with his second.

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The Knights were able to stop some of the damage scoring two of their own tries through centre Will Johnston and second rower Mike Cartwright. This at least got them on the points table and with 15 minutes left and a 30 – 10 score line, there was a small hope that they could get this one back. Luke Barron however sealed the deal in the 70th minute with a great try down the wings, an area that the Wildcats had opened up the Knight defence all match long. This put the match well and truly out of the Knights hands and a second try to Gareth Gibbs two minutes from the end was the icing on the cake.

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This is the Wildcats fourth Championship, their last being in 2007 when they went back to back victors from the 2006 season and their first was in their inaugural season in 2001. Knights Coach Guillaume Cieutat said after the game “The Wildcats fully deserve the Championship, they have the talent and we played very flat today”. The Knights will go back to Manhattan and regroup over the winter and I am sure next year will come out firing again. The Wildcats now have the target on their back and all teams will be now gunning after their tales. the question now is can the Wildcats recreate their 2006/7 season and go back to back in 2014?

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Match Progression:

04 min: 9 M. Walsh, Wildcats (T)
05 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (C)
28 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (T)
33 min: 5 A. Corgaj, Wildcats (T)
39 min: 6 M. Goward, Wildcats (T)
40 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (C)
42 min: 3 G. Gibbs, Wildcats (T)
48 min: 6 M. Goward, Wildcats (T)
49 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (C)
59 min: 4 W. Johnston, Knights (T)
63 min: 11 M. Cartwright, Knights (T)
64 min: 1 J. Elliot, Knights (C)
70 min: 4 L. Barron, Wildcats (T)
71 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (C)
77 min: 3 G. Gibbs, Wildcats (T)
78 min: 1 K. Freed, Wildcats (C)

Man of the Match: #1 Kristian Freed, Connecticut Wildcats

Referees: Craig Priestly and Rob Balachandran
Touchline Judges: Matt Astil and Jamie Everett

Colonial Cup

Next week the second match of the Colonial Cup will be played with the Canadian Wolverines coming down to to the A. A. Garthwaite stadium in Conshohocken, Philadelphia PA, to take on the USA Tomahawks. The  Wolverines won the first encounter with a “from behind” win to take it 36-10 in Toronto and take a strong lead in the 3 game annual series. They also have had a great build up with a won over the Jamaicans in Toronto with a 38-14 victory in front of 7000.

The international will be played after the USARL Grand Final in what has been touted as the first step to re-unification. The Philadelphia Fight will take on the Jacksonville Axemen in the USARL grand final, with kick-off at 3pm and the Tomahawks vs. Wolverines will see kick off at 6pm. This offers a great days Rugby League and I strongly encourage anyone who has next Saturday (24 August) free to come down and catch the action.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email: daniel@rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com
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