Western sealed the mantle of most dominant region in Country Rugby League at Cessnock on Saturday, brushing aside the disappointment of 2016 to spectacularly secure the under 16s and under 18s Country Championship crowns.
A year after suffering back-to-back grand final heartbreaks, the Rams hoisted both trophies after accounting for the East Coast Dolphins and Newcastle Rebels, respectively, in thrilling deciders which both went into extra-time.
Incredibly, the victories came in as close to identical fashion as possible.
Both Rams sides were trailing their respective opponents by six with no time left on the clock and both produced stunning efforts to score as the full-time siren sounded.
Both tries were converted, by Raymond Towney in the under 16s and Matt Burton in the 18s, to send the games in extra-time.
Towney showed steely nerves too, considering his conversion attempt was from the sideline.
Buoyed by that momentum, the under 16s Rams crossed twice more in extra-time to eventually seal a 32-22 victory.
Luke Gale barged over in the early stages of extra-time in the under 18s decider, the try and Burton’s successful kick was enough to give the Rams a 32-26 win.
Coopa Martin stole the show in the under 16s, scoring three of his side’s six tries. Harry Blake, Towney and Benji Glasheen scored the others, with Towney nailing four of six conversion attempts.
Brock Naden, Burton, Farren Lamb, Bayden Searle, Darby Medlyn and Gale scored for the under 18s Rams, with Burton also kicking four of six.
The good news kept coming for Western too, with the post-grand final announcements of the NSW Country sides to tour New Zealand later this year.
Glasheen, Campbell Woolnough and Nic Barlow all made the grade in the under 16s while Burton, Charlie Staines, Riley Cheshire, Medlyn, Gale and Joey Hobby were all named in the under 18s squad.
UNDER 16s: Western Rams 32 (C Martin 3, A Lake, R Towney, B Glasheen tries; R Towney 4 goals) def East Coast Dolphins 22 (O Nosworthy, T Vickery, B Liyou, A Neal tries; T Vickery 3 goals)
UNDER 18s: Western Rams 32 (B Naden, F Lamb, M Burton, B Searle, D Medlyn, L Gale tries; M Burton 4 goals) def Newcastle Rebels 26 (B Hibberd, D Ryan, F Mateo, J Sullivan, C Bryant tries; L Bent 3 goals)