Cessnock defeat Souths by 14 points to end 17-year premiership drought

Cessnock have ended a 17-year premiership drought beating South Newcastle 20-6 to claim the 2020 Newcastle Rugby League premiership at Maitland Sportsground.

Tears were flowing as the Cessnock fans began a "Goeys" chant with five minutes on the clock with their heroes leading by 14 points.

Many of those fans had seen the six losing grand final attempts since the Goannas last tasted success in 2003 when then defeated Raymond Terrace.

Cessnock coach Todd Edwards was at the helm at five of those grand finals and admitted he was almost speechless when the final siren sounded on Sunday.

From the moment the Goannas ran out on the field it was clear they were intent on bringing the premiership cup back to Cessnock.

Fullback Ngangarra Barker opened the scoring in the four minute finishing off a Brayden Musgrove bust down the left edge.

Goannas centre Musgrove followed up shortly after to give Cessnock an 8-0 lead inside 15 minutes.

After being seemingly unable to miss last week, Cessnock winger Seaton Reid missed both conversion attempts and the score was 8-0 at half-time.

Nick Lawrence crosses for the final try in Cessnock's 20-6 grand final win against South Newcastle. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Nick Lawrence crosses for the final try in Cessnock's 20-6 grand final win against South Newcastle. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Souths replied early in the second stanza when second-rower Blake Campbell crashed over to the right of the posts.

Lions halfback Jason Keelan added the extras to reduce the margin to two points.

In the 56th minute Cessnock's Josh Griffiths nabbed a try from a Barker grubber, diving full stretch to beat the chasing pack just before the dead-ball line.

Reid kicked his first goal to take the score to 14-6.

Cessnock dummy-half Nick Lawrence went himself and scored next to the posts in the 71st minute and Reid converted to extend their advantage to 14 points.

On the day there were plenty of heroes in black and yellow, Goannas lock Connor Kirkwood led the way and was player of the final.

Kirkwood said it was unbelievable to be finally be part of a Cessnock premiership.

The Cessnock junior set he had set his sights on one day holding up the premiership cup and follow in the footsteps of his uncle Luke Thomas who was part of the last Goannas premiership team in 2003.

"All I wanted to do when I was a kid was to play first grade with Cessnock and now to win a grand final with them means everything,

"I love this group, I love Toddy (Edwards), I love the players, I love this club - it's the best win ever."

Kirkwood said it was an honour to win the player of the grand final award, but there were 16 other players who took the field for Cessnock who could have taken the honour.

Proud coach Edwards wasn't quite so sure and said Kirkwood had taken his game to a new level in the past year, in particular the final month.

Grand final celebrations at last for Cessnock coach Todd Edwards. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Grand final celebrations at last for Cessnock coach Todd Edwards. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Edwards said Kirkwood's performance was huge.

"He just kept on pushing up for us and his defence was huge."

Cessnock skipper Reed Hugo was man of the moment when he lifted the premiership cup with a sea of placards with his face emblazoned upon them looking back at him.

"This is just a huge moment," Hugo said.

"We have been so close as a group and worked so hard for each other.

"It is just such as great reward and great to be part of a Goannas premiership at last.

"It hurt last year to be on the losing side and I watched the other five losses from the stands."

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