In drenched conditions at Pier 40 in Manhattan, the New York Knights concluded their tenth season in the AMNRL in the grandest way possible, beating the Connecticut Wildcats 38-4 and claiming the 2011 AMNRL Championship. The Wildcats were buoyed by the return of some regular starters and the Knights approached the game with their tried and true brand of clinical rugby league.
Grand Final XIV started as a tight arm-wrestle until Knights’ second-rower and AMNRL leading try-scorer, Regan Hyde muscled his way over to open up New York’s account and add to his own personal tally of 14 tries for the season. The Wildcats responded by building some pressure of their own, but after giving away a penalty near their own goalposts, Knights’ chief playmaker Nigel Millgate slotted the gift two points and stole back some momentum.“It was a slippery night so our completions were not so good. Early on it was a good contest, we knew we had a game. The Wildcats were resilient and were asking questions but physicality was on our side,” said New York Knights’ coach, Guilluame Cieutat.
The battle of the hookers, between Connecticut’s Matt Walsh and New York’s CJ Cortalano proved an entertaining spectacle as both were very dynamic around the ruck. It was Cortalano who split the Connecticut defense and got one up on his opponent, scoring a long range try to make it 14-0. The clever boot of Millgate provided Ian Elliot with a scoring opportunity just before halftime and the Knights went into the break with a formidable lead of 18-0. Despite the lead, Connecticut Captain Curtis Cunz said the Wildcats kept optimistic going into the second half, “Our heads were still high, we were still confident we could come back, we just had to clean up the stupid mistakes. In those conditions you need to do anything you can to protect the ball and we just couldn’t do it.”
After the break, the game reverted to an arm wrestle and it wasn’t until Andrew Moody scored for the Knights that the points started to flow again. Knights’ captain Gareth Baxendale, Fitz-James Adams and Emanuele Cipriani all scored for New York within a horror six minute period for the Wildcats. Connecticut grabbed a consolation try via the crafty work of Drew Duggan, but it was the AMNRL MVP, Nigel Millgate who fittingly had the final say, scoring just before the siren and finishing the game at: Knights 38 Wildcats 4. Knights’ five-eighth, Andrew Moody was named the game’s MVP.
A jubilant Knights’ Coach Cieutat attributed his men’s work ethic and camaraderie as their key to success. “It’s a tough method but it’s the only one that can be successful in rugby league. We all embraced it and we achieved a lot,” he said. “You could tell, whenever there was a try everybody congratulated each other. I think this is an achievement of a group that stuck together in the most collective way.”
Commiserations for the Connecticut team, however, this season has been far from a failure. “Last year we only managed to win two games and this year we only lost two so it’s definitely a huge improvement in just one year. I’ve never seen any team in the comp do that so hopefully the boys now see what we can do if we just stick together,” Curtis Cunz said.
2011 AMNRL Grand Final MVP - Andrew Moody (New York Knights)
2011 AMNRL MVP - Nigel Millgate (New York Knights)