Young centre Morgan Harper has helped Canterbury snatch their first NSW Cup rugby league title in seven years, after pulling off a clutch one-on-one strip in the Bulldogs 18-12 grand final win over Newton.
Endorsed by the outgoing Josh Morris for the centres jersey at the Bulldogs next year, the Junior Kiwis representative pulled off the biggest play of his young career at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
With scores locked at 12-12 and 10 minutes to play, the 20-year-old pulled off a one-on-one strip on Jets winger Matt Evans and ran away to cross in the corner.
Captain Rhyse Martin then kicked a penalty goal moments later to wind down the clock and wrap up a date with Queensland Cup winners Redcliffe in the State Championship match on NRL grand final day at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
The win ends a difficult few weeks for the Bulldogs after the club endured the fallout from their Mad Monday dramas.
Down 10-0 just moments before the break, halfback Fa’amanu Brown scored a crucial try when he scooped up a loose ball to cross and reduce the margin to 10-6 at halftime.
Man-of-the-match Zach Woolford then fired a bullet cut-out pass out from dummy-half to unmarked winger Josh Bergamin for him to dot down 12 minutes after the break, before Martin nailed the kick from the sideline.
Without injured halves Matt Frawley and Lachlan Lewis, Canterbury were forced to do it the hard way when Kyle Flanagan kicked Newtown level with 15 minutes to go via a field goal.
But then Harper stepped up, boosting his chances of playing in Dean Pay’s up-and-coming NRL side next season.
Given their afflation with Newtown, the result also piled further pain onto Cronulla’s weekend following their preliminary final loss to Melbourne.
Flanagan, Sione Katoa, Aaron Gray, Ava Seumanufanga and Kurt Dillon were among the Jets players to play first grade this year for Cronulla.
The Sharks under-20s Jersey Flegg side at least won their title on Sunday, beating Penrith 22-12.