Merriwa Magpies celebrate outstanding season after securing Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League reserve grade title

THE Merriwa Magpies broke an 18-year drought to secure the Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League reserve grade premiership at Scone Park on Saturday.

Wearing the club's victorious 1999 strip, the side accounted for long-time rivals Aberdeen Tigers 26-6 in an entertaining season finale.

A highlight of the win was the fact a member of that triumphant team, Bruce Blackadder, also made an appearance off the bench in this year's line-up, showing he'd lost none of his skills over the past two decades.

"I'm lost for words," an emotional Merriwa captain-coach Nathan Barry said.

"I couldn't be prouder of the guys.

"The Aberdeen boys really stuck it to us.

"After they beat us in the last round of the competition, we knew they'd come out hard - and they did.

"But, our guys lifted.

"I'm just so happy.

"It's my first time as captain-coach - so it's a great feeling.

"What a year it's been.

"We've all put in from December until now.

"And, we got the rewards for it.

"I'll just let all this sink in before I make a decision on whether to go around again."

After eliminating defending premiers Scone Thoroughbreds from the race a fortnight ago, the Magpies stunned the Tigers, perennial grand finalists, from the opening whistle.

Second-rower Tim Stanley and centre Jacob Medd both crossed for tries to give Merriwa a handy 8-0 lead.

Just as Aberdeen started to apply the pressure through hooker Corey Gilmore and crafty halves Leigh Mitchell and Sean Millwood, Magpies fullback Seth Morgan struck a body blow leading into half-time.

He grabbed the side's third try, and then converted, for a 14-0 scoreline.

The Tigers rallied early in the second period, when centre Ethan Christensen dived over the line. Hayden Bell added the extras to reduce the margin to 14-6.

Ill-discipline gave Morgan the opportunity to land two penalties to extend the team's advantage to 18-6.

Then as a tiring Aberdeen wilted in the dying stages, Gavin Piper and halfback Andrew Swales put the final nail in the Tigers' coffin.

As for Barry, he led by example and was, subsequently, named man of the match before the celebrations kicked off in front of a vocal band of loyal supporters.

MERRIWA MAGPIES 26 (Tim Stanley, Jacob Medd, Seth Morgan, Gavin Piper, Andrew Swales tries; Morgan 3 goals) defeated ANERDEEN TIGERS 6 (Ethan Christensen try; Hayden Bell goal)