Kings and Wombats into Title Game: North
In the first game, the Kings hit form early to take a 10-0 lead before the Knights got into their rhythm, but it was the home team that eventually ground out a four tries to two victory.
“It always seems to be close against the Knights,” said Brooklyn head coach Brent Richardson.
“It’s one of those rival games where it doesn’t seem to matter where each team is on the table, it seems to always be close.”
The Kings opened by completing their first five sets laying the platform for the lead, which they’d increased to 14-4 by halftime. Semiou Smith and Brandon Anderson were among their try-scorers.
The win did come at a cost, however, as Brooklyn’s captain and hooker Garet Shepherdson and front-rower Justin Coffman could both potentially miss the championship game due to injury.
The hot and steamy conditions in New York took their toll, particularly in the second half, with the Kings finishing the match with thirteen players because of injuries, although Richardson says they have enough depth in their squad to cover for the injured players if necessary.
And even though it was Brooklyn’s first game in three weeks, they showed few signs of rustiness.
“We trained really well for three weeks, we did a lot of defensive work and we were up and ready for it,” added Richardson.
It was the end of the road for the Knights in 2018, a disappointing end for last year’s grand finalists.
“I’m very happy with the boys,” said New York head coach Guillaume Cieutat after the game.
“I know we lost on the scoreboard, but anyone at the game knows how on top we were.”
He says the Knights were self-destructive through the first quarter of the match and Brooklyn capitalized on their mistakes.
Their two try-scorers were Karim Singleton and Luke Hume. The latter also had another try disallowed with the referee ruling he lost control of the ball in a tackle in the in-goal with the Kings leading 14-8.
“We feel like a boxer who didn’t get the decision, but knows he was on top based on how badly bruised the opponent is,” said Cieutat. “Good luck to Brooklyn, but we’re very proud of our attitude.”
In the late semi, the White Plains Wombats held on for a tight 16-14 victory over the Fight in Philadelphia to set up a showdown with Brooklyn in the title game.
In a tussle reminiscent of their previous contest this season, it was an arm wrestle from the opening kickoff with both teams scoring three tries apiece. In the end, the difference was one missed shot at goal.
The Wombats led 10-6 at the main break in a match described by White Plains player/coach CJ Cortalano as “one of those ping pong games”.
Regular scorers for White Plains again featured on the day with Matt Walsh, George Reis and Jaime Abbas crossing the line, while Thomas Stevenson booted the extras.
Philadelphia were proficient at completing their sets, especially through the first quarter, but it wasn’t enough to get them home.
Brian Madden and Tristan Sylk (2) scored their tries.
“It was an ugly game,” said Fight player/coach Rich Henson. “Very physical but ugly.
“We were in their half for the majority of the second half and we just couldn’t get it over. There were too many errors on either side.”
The match also brought down the curtain on the playing careers of Fight stalwarts Henson, Bryan Confer and James Coleman, who have all announced this would be their final season.
While deciding to hang up his boots as a player, Henson will spend the offseason weighing up whether he will coach the team again next year.
The result mean the Wombats have qualified for the conference championship game against the Kings.
“It should be a good game. As planned, we’re peaking when we want to,” adds Cortalano.