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Upton magic leads Knights to back-to-back NRLW titles

The Newcastle Knights dared to dream.

Ahead of the season, skipper Hannah Southwell warned they were building an empire out in Newcastle, and after downing the Titans 24-18 in Sunday’s decider, it is starting to ring true.

The Knights were on struggle street with 35 minutes remaining, after Titans winger Jaime Chapman completed a hat-trick.

But a Tamika Upton double in the final 10 minutes stole victory for the first Knights team to win back-to-back premierships.

Newcastle trailed 18-12 with 10 minutes left, as the players battled to find whatever mileage they had left in their legs in 36-degree heat.

But a shift in momentum came from a one-on-one steal from Young-Matilda-turned-Knights-winger Sheridan Gallagher, who ripped the ball away from Chapman in the 60th minute to help set up the first of Upton’s two late tries.

Tamika Upton celebrates after scoring.

Tamika Upton celebrates after scoring.Credit: Getty

Upton’s match-winner came off her own grubber in the 65th minute, with the Dally M winner completing a stunning turnaround.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Newcastle.

Errors were the Knights’ worst enemy, and they gifted Chapman all three of the Titans’ tries.

Alarm bells would have been ringing for Newcastle coach Ronald Griffiths in the second half.

Nita Maynard and Rima Butler both came from the field for head injury assessments, and the following set captain Hannah Southwell was on the ground.

The Knights struggled to find points in the second half, with none other than Chapman holding Shanice Parker up over the line to keep the Newcastle attack at bay.

The opening 10 minutes was similarly all about the Titans and their dogged attack paid off with the first of Chapman’s tries in the 13th minute.

The Gold Coast held 60 per cent possession in the opening 10 minutes, while the Knights struggled to get out of their end when they had the ball.

With the momentum in their favour, the Titans opted to take the extra points when Hannah Southwell was pulled up for a hair pull on Gold Coast skipper Georgia Hale.

But Newcastle eventually got on the scoreboard in the 24th minute when Upton orchestrated a try for winger Jasmin Strange.

With that, Newcastle were away, and off the back of Titans error, Gallagher scored down the right touch line thanks to the help of Parker.

Parker made it a double for Newcastle inside three minutes, snatching the lead for the first time ahead of half-time.

The Titans came out firing after the break, and almost ran away with it. If it wasn’t for Upton, the Gold Coast could well be lifting their first-ever premiership trophy.

But Newcastle were too good in the end, and for the second year in a row, Upton walks away with the Karyn Murphy medal – a hard pill to swallow for Murphy who is the head coach of the Titans.