BY JOHN BIGNELL
The Crows Cyril Connell team began on the back foot having to defend their line for three sets until the Pittsworth fullback chimed in and sliced through untouched to give the Clydesdales a 6-0 lead.
They then lost the ball on the kick-off and a towering torpedo was not contested for Toowoomba to again charge forward. The defence was slow off their line and not finishing off their tackles allowing a quick play of the ball and even quicker flow of ball to the speed machines on the outskirts of the Cyldesdales.
A simple chip through and no urgency shown by the Crows as the hulking second rower grounded the loose ball, converted his own try and the Clydesdales were out to a comfortable 12-0 lead. Jake Egan took off on a long range run up the centre, soon followed by a Jake O’Shea chip and regather to score in a positive piece of Crows attacking football and claw back to 12-6 after the conversion by Oliver Peak.
Soon after the nifty Toowoomba winger took off on a seventy metre run downfield after a dropped ball and was chased all the way by Peak who dived and tripped him up. Unfortunately the cover defence was too slow in reorganising and the Clydesdales were in for another try and the scoreline went to 16-6.
Toowoomba attacked into a retreating defence for easy yardage until a loose ball was regathered by the Crows and Laikyn Jung made a great clearing run out of danger. A penalty to Crows did not find touch and the Crows were under the pump again but another turnover in the tackle released the pressure and sent Dylan Taylor on a sixty metre scamper to close the gap at 16-10 with minutes to go for the break.
The Crows were attacking well but a loose pass allowed Toowoomba to press forward and with slick and quick hands soon progressed downfield where a cutout pass over the heads found as unmarked winger and the conversion took it out to 22-14 and the Crows were looking for halftime. Another turnover in the strong defence of the Crows and O’Shea went for a bursting gallop through the ruck, threw a beautiful straight cutout pass to Taylor who finished it off with his second try and the Crows went to the break at 22-14.
After the break it appeared as though both teams covered their hands in Vaseline as play continually broke down with sloppy passes and catches resulting in traffic going back and forward but getting nowhere for the first twenty minutes. Toowoomba finally completed a set and sent with Junior Chongee crashing over and Toowoomba shot out to 28-14. The Crows were their own worst enemy as many a good attacking raid finished with a turnover and they had to defend for most of the half.
The strong Beau Formor was causing problems every time he touched the ball and again strode forward only to be brought down just short in a last ditch tackle by Jake Egan who was close to best on field for the Crows. Teykoa Nagas was giving good service but the big runners of Jack Kennedy, Derome Mafi and Kailum Freeman could not crack the defence and the go forward wasn’t there for any backs to find space. The chasing had taken its toll and with the bell about to go A quick play the ball and out to replacement winger and the Clydesdales finished it off at 34-14 in a competitive but scrappy display of football.
The Under 18 Mal Meninga team went into the game knowing that a semi-final spot was on the line and although the line-up had been changed they approached it with determined passion and pride. Good attacking sets had the Crows advancing to within five metres of the line when Coen Horan stuttered, stepped and slid under the defence to give Jesse Marschke an easy conversion and a 6-0 scoreline.
Clydesdales hit back after a turnover and it was the great chase of Haiden Elsebach that cut down a fifty metre runaway break and the Crows recovered for another charge at the line and another loping pass over the heads put Jarrod Crook in the corner and the Crows out to 10-0 after fourteen minutes. Toowoomba were using their bigger forwards but the Crows back row of Elsebach, Clayton Dodt and Daniel Kirk were continually and fearfully flying into the fray with some big collisions stopping play on a number of times and keeping the Sports Trainers busy.
The Clydesdale were on the attack and a missed tackle out wide and a supporting fullback, Blake Appo, had them under the posts for a converted try in the fourteen minute and reduced the gap to four with both sides now looking for an opening in two solid defending oppositions. The Crows were adopting a speed game early and finishing with the two bigger forwards of Kyle Spry and Lachlan Reid but it was the lanky Clayton Dodt who enjoyed the spoils after Crook danced down the line and kicked infield, knock-on and a Kyle Spry charge put the Crows in a great position to offload to Clayton who dived over and the numbers semaphored 16-6 after Marschke converted.
The Crows were flying high when Elsebach and Spry combined in a great charge downfield eating up the metres to serve to the supporting Baidon Cooper who stepped and hopped his way past the last three defenders and gave the Crows a 22-6 lead. The halves of Horan and Jesse Marschke were enjoying the quick service out of the ruck by Ben Marscke and this assisted some timely clearing runs from the outside backs who were having a feast of possession.
In the dying minutes of the half a towering bomb was delivered only to be smothered and taken over the line. From the ensuing scrum the Clydesdales were on the charge and from ten metres out the huge front rower Lachlan Lee stormed onto a pass and feathers flew as he shouldered his way over the line, converted by Brayden Joseph and halftime had the Crows reasonably comfortable at 22-12.
It would take some seven minutes before scoring after halftime as both teams tore into each other with no quarter given. As the game seesawed it took a kick downfield to relieve the pressure where the Crows tapped the ball sideways to avoid going into touch but only gave it to Todd White who made no mistake with an open field to race under the sticks and suddenly it was game on at 22-18after a Josephs conversion.
The Crows were becoming a little anxious and ruffled as the Clydesdales surged upfield through the middle before finally going wide and found White once again and they hit the lead at 24-22. Changes were made with Tyson Whaleboat and Jack Krienke entering the fray along with Hayden Herbert and this stiffened the defence and gave a different direction and impetus to the attack.
The tackling efforts of the Marschke twins and Elsebach stung the Clydesdales but their quick passing and going wide was causing the Crows outside backs of Cody Maughan, Allen Cobbo-Mould and Baidon Cooper to pull off many a desperate tackle to nullify dangerous attacking raids. Toowoomba pressed forward but an uncontested chip over the top gave Cooper the chance to clear with a great run up the centre. Marschke to Kirk and the roll was on backed up by Michael Giles, Whaleboat and Spry through the retreating middle defenders. Penalty for a shoulder charge and some relief from a knock-on put the Crows on the charge with first Herbert, then Ben Marschke and finished off by the raging Kyle Spry who put the Crows back in front at 26-24.
Crook skipped away from dummy half , on to Daniel Kirk and Toowoomba came off the line too quick for another set following the penalty. The ball went to Hayden Herbert who hesitated, stepped inside and scored next to the posts. Marschke converted and the score was 32-24 and the Crows were strutting their stuff. The pendulum had swung back with six minutes to go and after another penalty for a high shot, kicked from the sideline by Herbert, the Crows led 34-24.
A lost ball and the Toowoomba forwards took it downfield but the heavy defence dislodged the ball for Cody Maughan to regather, burst through two tackles aon a seventy metre run to beat the last ditch tackle and score a great individual try and pushed the score to 38-24 and Coach Darren Burns breathed a sigh of relief. The last few minutes continued the struggle and Toowoomba was on the attack with seconds to go when the strong defence forced an error and the Crows were on their way to their first semi-final with the final score at 38-24 in what was a hard fought and tight contest.
A home game at Gympie next Sunday against the competition leaders Townsville Stingers and the Crows will be striving to finish this season off in great fashion. Come along and support the Crows on Sunday.