While Cowra’s Inge Visser was strong in Friday afternoon’s Buildcorp Super W grand final her NSW Waratahs’ hero was undoubtedly skipper Ash Hewson, the fullback capping her player-of-the-game effort with a title-winning penalty goal deep into extra-time.
Hewson and her pinpoint right boot had already basically kept her side in the game up until that point by accounting for eight of its 13 points, but no more so than with a try and ultimately match-saving tackle on Queensland fullback Samantha Treherne on the stroke of full-time when the scores were locked at 13-all.
Then in the 92nd minute of a final that could not have been scripted any better Hewson was given her chance to write herself and her side into the history books thanks to a Toa Filimoehala brain-snap, the kick from 15 metres out and slightly to the left of the sticks.
With the clash just moments from finishing in an anti-climactic draw Hewson made no mistake, nailing the chance to secure a 16-13 victory for her side and with it, the inaugural Super W title.
Speaking straight after the magical moment, the emotional, 37-year-old Wallaroo said that was a situation she’d dreamed of being in since she was a youngster on the south coast.
“As soon as the whistle blew I walked away from everyone, took a deep breath and knew it was going to come down to that,” Hewson said.
“Since the age of five or six I have been practicing that moment in my backyard or on football fields down the south coast. It finally paid off.”
Hewson was swamped by Visser and the rest of her jubilant NSW teammates while the Queenslanders sat dejected on the Allianz Stadium turf, the Reds were the stronger of the two sides for a lot of the game and actually led for 60 minutes of it, there’s no doubt they deserved more than the nothing they took home from the epic decider.
It was a final that had everything and it was as good an advertisement for rugby as any game played this season, and one the Waratahs grinded out the toughest of victories from.
“We knew it was going to be like that. But just the belief in our team, we knew we get over the line eventually,” Hewson said.
“This is history. We wanted to win the inaugural season (and) this whole competition has been unbelievable.
“That game, I am so glad it was like that because it was a real testament to the competition and the passion that women play rugby with.
“It was on display 100 per cent [on Friday night]. We do it for the complete and utter love for the game.”
NSW first called on Hewson in the fiercely-contested opening stages of the encounter and she delivered then, not for the first time that night of course, landing a penalty goal to give the Waratahs a 3-0 lead.
That lead didn’t last long as Queensland flanker Lavinia Gould latched onto a pass from NSW halfback Cobie-Jane Morgan, plucking the intercept from the back of a lineout and speeding 55 metres untouched to score. The conversion was waved away, leaving the Reds with a narrow, 5-3 lead.
Despite a buckletload of defensive pressure from Queensland, including one of the best shots you’d ever hope to see on a rugby field from prop Liz Patu, NSW won the lead back just before the half-time through a second Hewson penalty goal.
Again, it didn’t last long.
Soon after the half-time break, but once again against the run of play, Queensland scored, this time through Nareta Masters, who found space after handing Hewson an epic don’t argue and racing 50 metres to cross.
Again, the conversion was waved away before, again, NSW won the lead back.
On the back of a huge string of phases from Visser and her fellow forwards and a repeated infringement yellow card for Gould, replacement prop Melissa Fatu burrowed over from a pick-and-drive, Hewson’s conversion making it 13-10.
Zahara Te Mara landed a penalty goal in the dying stages to draw level, before Hewson’s unbelievable effort on her line stopped Treherne and sent the game to extra-time.
After an overtime arm-wrestle, the stage became Hewson’s again and she proved she has ice in her veins.