NSW WOMEN'S PL
The Illawarra Stingrays' stranglehold on the NSW Women's Premier League has drawn to a close.
The defending premiers lost their bid for a record fourth-consecutive title yesterday afternoon with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Macarthur.
In a frustrating game, the Rams seized their opportunities, while the Stingrays struggled with attack and execution.
It was a massive shock to the system for the ever-successful Illawarra outfit.
On the other side of the coin, the result was a refreshing change for Macarthur, who were able to vindicate their minor premiership trophy from earlier in the season.
"We didn't finish - it was as simple as that - and you can't win games unless you finish," Stingrays' coach Steve Marsh said.
"At times this season we've played games where we've dominated and not been able to find the back of the net, and unfortunately today was another one of those instances."
In front of a parochial section of pink-clad Stingrays supporters, the Rams did what they needed to for victory.
Macarthur were without Leena Khamis and Danielle Brogan for the match, but it barely showed against the Stingrays lack of polish.
Even so, Marsh felt his team showed more promise on the day.
"For me, we were the better team without question but I'm sure their coach is saying the same thing," he said.
"When it was nil-all in the first half, I thought 'this game could turn in a second if we're not careful', and all of a sudden we were one-nil down. It was similar again in the second half.
"They just left us chasing and when you're chasing in a game it makes it awfully difficult."
Withstanding a mountain of Illawarra possession in the second-half, Macarthur's defence suffocated any real threats against them.
After some early opportunities from either side, the game quickly turned into a mid-field arm wrestle over possession.
A fortuitous corner kick gifted Macarthur the half-time advantage.
The Rams opened their account when a deflection from a Stingrays player allowed Hayley Todd a clean strike at the net in the 32nd minute.
The Stingrays enjoyed a mountain of possession during the second stanza, but again, execution proved to be their Achilles' heel.
Against the run of play, Rams forward Hayley Todd ran onto a long ball to extend her side's advantage in the 65th minute.
Frustration grew as the Stingrays threw away numerous opportunities in front of goal, often because of a rushed kick or near misses.
Rams goalkeeper Trudy Burke was awarded player of the match.
In the younger grades, Illawarra's under 14s side came away with a 2-0 win, while the 16s lost their grand final 1-0.
"This year has been an absolute out-and-out success for the Illawarra Stingrays," Marsh said.
"Today everything didn't go our way, but we've put three teams in a grand final.
"We've won the club championship - and that's what this club's about."