Mountain Goats capture NSWSRU First Division Premiership

Blue Mountains Rugby Club has won the 2023 Kentwell Cup, following a heart-stopping 44-40 win over Hunters Hill on Saturday afternoon at Concord Oval.

Blue Mountains coach Luke Raams was ecstatic following the victory and described the often harrowing week leading up to the grand final, plus the drama of the dramatic 4-point win.

“(Last) Wednesday was about the moment the nerves started to hit home, when I was invited, along with my team captain and club President, to the Kentwell Cup Finals luncheon at Tattersalls Club in Sydney. I was asked to participate in a Q&A, next to the Director of Rugby for Hunters Hill. It wasn’t until that moment I realised what we were really up against.

“Hunters Hill played in the inaugural Kentwell Cup 100 years ago, in 1923. They’ve also won it several times since then, and were playing in their second consecutive Kentwell Cup Grand Final, going down to Colleagues in 2022. They were also led by an ex-Wallaby #8 and specialist Wallabies assistant coach, Ross Reynolds, their Director of Rugby – the man I was sitting next to for the Q&A.

“When they asked me what I thought our strength was, and why I thought we would win, I pointed at my trust in our full squad preparation. We knew Hunters Hill had a big 80 minute performance in them, but I personally felt that our 23 was stronger than theirs, and I think I was proven right.

“Thursday and Friday were crazy, I could hardly sleep – I know others couldn’t either. We got a surge of support I don’t think any of us expected, family, friends and hundreds of messages from ex-players and even some current coaches. It was such an amazing feeling, but with that feeling came pressure, as a win would be our first in a 67-year history…this was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to let slip.

“On game day, the first thing that really struck me was the support we received from all of the other clubs at the ground on Finals Day – except of course Hunters Hill.

“As we kitted up and climbed the stairs out of Concord Oval, we received a really large and unexpected cheer of support by teams like Drummoyne, Forest, Waverley and Colleagues, challenging us to get the win. It was so cool.

“Just prior to our boys taking the field, they had one last huddle, with our captain, Chris Nay, addressing the boys in an emotional and heart-felt speech about what it meant to him to represent Western Sydney with this team. There were tears in almost every player’s eye when I looked around – we were ready.

“We couldn’t have imagined what we were about to walk out to when we left the sheds – a supporter tunnel 50-odd meters long and 3 people deep, clapping and cheering our boys as they ran through.”

Action from the Grand Final between Blue Mountains and Hunters Hill.   Photos courtesy of Bradley Redfern.

The rest is history, with Blue Mountains perfect over the next 35-40 minutes, scoring 4 tries and a penalty goal to lead 27-14 at half time.

Despite the expected resurgence from Hunters Hill after the break, Blue Mountains continued to score freely, racing out to a 44-19 lead with just 15 minutes left on the clock.

Two late yellow cards however left Blue Mountains down to 14 men for the final 15 minutes, and 13 men for 5 minutes, allowing Hunters Hill to capitalise, running in 3 tries to close to just 4 points in arrears in the dying minutes of the game.

“I’m so proud of our boys defensive efforts,” said Luke. “Several times we held Hunters Hill out for 10+ phases before they found a crack, even with two players in the bin. And to put it into perspective, our #10 (Chris Nay) and #15 (Pete Nay) both had serious rib injuries and had received pain blocker injections in their ribs so they could take the field. Our #1 (Jacob Delailoa) had a suspected broken foot from about 15 minutes into the first half and our #3 (Clancy Henderson) was out on his feet with leg cramp.

“With 5 minutes to go, Chris Nay got hit late off a clearance kick, injuring his leg to the point he could no longer continue. It was at this stage we were up 44-40, with ‘Hunters’ throwing everything at us, and looking back now, I remember what I said about trusting our subs.

“I think we’d used every substitute available and it was on our fresh players to bring the energy to bring this trophy home. A final try-saving tackle by Angus McGrath caused the Hunters Hill player to knock the ball on, leading the referee to award us a scrum and telling us it was last play.

“The scrum collapsed, causing a last knock on, and the final whistle blew – elation. Some collapsed, others threw their hands in the air, the crowd rushed the field and history was made.”

“67 years in the making and the Kentwell Cup was finally making its way West. I’m so proud to be a Mountain Goat,” Luke said.

“JP Sauni received player of the match but I really don’t want to single individuals out on a performance that took everyone involved to win, so instead, I’ll name the squad list below:

Jacob Delailoa, JP Sauni , Clancy Henderson, Damon Lee, Nick O’Gorman, Amos Viiga, Luke Smart, Henry Seumanu, Waldo Wessels, Chris Nay, Samisoni Toganivalu, Angus McGrath, Jake Butler-Fleming, Brad Kenny, Peter Nay, Harrison Wallace, Ian Docherty, Graham Kondek, Tom Teuma, Darcy Thompson, Aparama Vulavou, Alex Pinson, Gav Duncan, Feka Silva, Tom Kwok, Mitch Reberger, Adam Barrington.