Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC painted Leichhardt Oval red on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to claim a third championship in three years.
The White Eagles were ruthlessly efficient in a strong 2-0 win over Premiers Blacktown City FC on the way to securing Championship glory.
Robbie Younis was at it again, scoring an unbelievable free-kick midway through the first-half before Yuta Kokado sealed the win after 50 minutes with a thumping strike.
Reduced to 10 men after 67 minutes when captain Zach Cairncross got himself sent off with two yellow cards in seven minutes, the road back into the contest was always going to be a hard one for Blacktown.
Truth be told, the Premiers never really showed up.
Marshaled by a superb, disciplined Bonnyrigg midfield, and bolstered by a composed defence behind, the White Eagles never looked anything but in control of the contest.
A cagey opening five minutes gave few hints as to who would take out the Championship.
White Eagle Ray Miller fought out a good battle with Blacktown’s Sasa Macura, while his teammate Daniel Araujo impressed in the absence of the injured Connor Evans.
It was Blacktown that registered the first shot on goal via ex-West Sydney Wanderer Joey Gibbs who fired on target from 25-yards out from a free kick.
Kokado had his first shot on goal after 19 minutes when he tried his luck from long range.
Blacktown’s Danny Choi summed up Blacktown’s game when he robbed Mun-soo Gil on the halfway and raced down the left wing, cutting in and trying to find Gibbs in the middle of the box, but his final pass was poor and easily cleared.
As lackluster as Blacktown’s usually brilliant forward line was, they faced tough competition from Dylan Fox and in particular captain Chris Tadrosse who put in an amazing performance to cap off a wonderful career, winning the Robbie Slater medal in the process.
Taylor McDonald, making the first senior start of his career, was also hugely impressive, matching up well against Choi and Travis Major throughout the day.
At the other end, Younis was a constant nuisance for the Blacktown defence, and in particular Cairncross and Matt Lewis.
He scored a deserved goal after 37 minutes when Gil was fouled just over 20 yards out from goal.
Just like he did two weeks ago in the Major Semi Final, Younis stood up confidently and picked his spot perfectly, curling the ball around the Blacktown wall to find the back of the net.
The goal was enough to give the White Eagles a deserved half-time lead and not much changed in the second half.
Blacktown pushed hard after the break in search of an equaliser and Patrick Antelmi must have thought he’d played the killer pass just minutes in when he found Choi breaking through the last line of defence, only for the pacey winger to be crowded out of his shot.
The Bonnyrigg response was fierce and rapid.
Just three minutes later, the ball was up the other end and in the back of the net.
Tadrosse had crept up the left flank to be found by a beautiful cross-field pass, and bought it down with some brilliant chest control, watching the ball bounce he lobbed it over his defender into the box where it bounced, with Kokado racing into beat Nenad Vekic to the ball and slamming it into the roof of the net.
From there, it was a long road back for Blacktown and ultimately they could not make up the ground.
Miller continued to dominate the middle of the park, while Tynan Diaz and Kokado continued to terrorise Roberto Speranza and Yianni Fragogiannis down the flanks.
Things got worse for Blacktown as its own superstar winger Choi was forced off with injury after 68 minutes and with the pressure on, frustration started to show.
Cairncross picked up his first yellow after 70 minutes and was sent off just seven minutes later when he lashed out at Younis to earn a second yellow card.
It was a sour end to an otherwise brilliant season from one of the league’s best players.
Blacktown toiled hard for the remaining 13 minutes and Major fashioned an unlikely chance just to hit the ball high and wide.
Younis missed a chance of his own two minutes into stoppage time but it proved meaningless as referee Kurt Ams called time on another brilliant PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 season, confirming Bonnyrigg as Champions in the process.
Bonnyrigg captain Brian Brown said his sides’ tactical approach to the game was flawless.
“I thought it was a great performance from the team, we got our tactics right and I don’t think Blacktown handled what we did,” Brown said.
“I think Chris Tadrosse’s performance was as good as you can get from left-back. Everything he did was right and everything he said was right in the change room.
“We were relaxed the whole week, but we just put a lot of emphasis on how to approach the day, our shape and I think we got it right.”
For Blacktown coach Mark Crittenden it was a disappointing way to end a remarkable season.
“I thought the first half was pretty even to be fair, it’s just another Robbie Younis free-kick, but their pressure stopped us from paying out and they deserved the result,” Crittenden said.
“We had our chances, and in the second half Choi had a good chance, but they go up the other end and score, it’s just one of those days.
“Bonnyrigg really made it hard for us to play and as I said, I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved this season … but it’s obviously disappointing. There’s not much to say, it’s been a great season but these are the days that count.”
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 0
Blacktown City FC 2 (Younis 37, Kokado 50’)