Maitland Pickers have earned themselves a third Presidents Cup after a dominant 32-10 win over St Marys in today’s Grand Final at CommBank Stadium.
The Denton Engineering Cup (NSWRL Northern Conference) premiers never let the Leagues Clubs Australia Ron Massey Cup (Central Conference) premiers into the match after leading 20-0 at half-time on the way to a five tries-to-two victory.
Fullback Daniel Langbridge was named Player of the Match for his kick-returns, attacking options and combination with halfback Brock Lamb – both men terrorising Saints’ defensive lines.
The Pickers can now place the 2023 Cup alongside their 2020 (def Glebe-Burwood) and 2022 (def Hills Bulls) trophies in the Maitland club rooms.
“St Marys are a great side, but it actually proves now how good we are,” Pickers coach Matt Lantry said.
“A hundred per cent they had a bigger pack, but our guys are not intimidated by anything. They will attack and defend all day.
“They might have outweighed us in the physical department, but we back our skill level, we back our tenacity, and our ability to compete on any play.
“We knew if we could just weather the storm initially we’d be in good shape for the rest of the match.”
Lamb’s brilliance with the boot helped construct the 20-0 halftime lead for Pickers.
He grubbered behind the defence twice setting up his centre Gary Anderson (16th minute) and back-rower Lincoln Smith (23rd minute) with the same play.
The Pickers opening try came in their first set when Lamb’s halves partner Chad O’Donnell sent the ball skywards, which St Marys defenders let bounce.
Centre Matt Soper-Lawler, who scored a 90 metre intercept try in last year’s final, was there to swoop again and place the ball for the Pickers first point in the second minute.
Lamb converted all three tries and then landed a penalty in the 39th minute.
“I think Brock was toying with them a bit on that right edge – he just had the ball on a string,” Lantry said of his No.7 who had a hand in three tries, kicked all five conversions and a penalty.
“He knew when to pass, when to kick. He’s just exceptional – an outstanding player and great character.
“He’s a big reason why we’re as successful as we are.”
Lamb, who played 33 NRL games for Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters, has been a part of all three Presidents Cup campaigns.
“It’s massive. We’ve been talking about this all year – we didn’t want to look too far ahead but we knew if we got ourselves near this opportunity we’d give it a crack,” Lamb said.
The three unanswered tries in the first half definitely helped in that quest.
“Just belief. There was a lot of talk of how great St Marys are as a side, and they are, but most of the boys in our team are locals who’ve known each other for 10 years or more,” Lamb said.
“We are just dead-set good mates and we love playing together.”
After the break St Marys did seem to have a bit more vigour in their step and finally in the 52nd minute the increased intensity paid off.
Fullback Masi Fidow chimed into the right edge sending a basketball-style pass over the heads of Pickers players to his winger Christian Crichton for an acrobatic put-down (20-4) next to the corner post.
But the glimmer of hope for a Saints was quickly dented, when Lamb sent a short pass to Anderson who used brute strength to swivel and bust out of three tacklers to put right-side winger James Bradley over for the Pickers’ fourth try.
Lamb converted from the sideline to make the road back even longer for St Marys at 26-4. That situation didn’t improve when Jake Tago was pushed into touch in the act of trying to place the ball in the left corner.
The clincher came four minutes later when Play of the Match Daniel Langbridge put Bradley in the clear for his second try, followed by another Lamb sideline conversion (32-4).
The gap in points was becoming a hill too high to climb for the Saints, even though they scored a consolation try with five minutes left to five-eighth Todd Sapienza (32-10).
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