With a bitter rivalry spanning back to the early BRL days, it was almost as if Valleys and Brothers had turned back the clock to the heydays of the 70’s and 80’s as the two teams were held to a dramatic 25-25 draw in a pulsating derby at the impeccable Emmerson Park home of the Diehards.
The one point would see Brothers maintain third place on the ladder and have the big guns in Aspley and Pine Rivers looking over their shoulders and would also see Valleys come away with this draw full of confidence into the back end of the season.
The Diehards were first to draw first blood with a nice bullocking run by Andrew Johnston who spun and twisted his way through some flimsy Brothers defence to go in and score. Reliable kicker Reece Rowlinson made no mistake with the conversion to make it 6-0.
Brothers took advantage of the windy conditions as the Diehards lost possession and soon kicked their way up field to set up their first try through Troy Swift who took a brilliant pass from halfback Sam Turnbull. With Turnbull adding the extras it was 6-6.
It seemed whoever had the ball were destined to score and again with some excellent field position by Brothers had Valleys on the back foot which would eventually see them score their second try. A clever kick through from centre Tim O’Brien found Marsh hanging out wide to collect the scraps and go in to make it 10-6. Turnbull again adding the extras which saw Brothers hit the lead at 12-6.
Valleys were next to show their attacking abilities when a nice backline movement saw the ball move out to the Diehards centres who fed outstanding fullback Gabriel Kafi to score in the corner.
With Rowlinson making good use of the wind, he had the scores locked up at 12-12. The standard and quality of this game was second to none. Valleys on home soil led by brilliant five eighth Keith Eshman and equally joined by busy hooker Tyrone Lowry and prop James Thomas were simply outstanding.
Brothers also had a star studded trio that had Valleys watching their every move in Sam Turnbull, David Hammond and fullback Woolcott.
Another opportunist try before the break and his second of the afternoon to slashing Valleys fullback Kafi was produced on the end of a brilliant kick by Eshman whose kicking skills were the backbone of the Diehards.
Rowlinson once again landed the two pointer to have Valleys now leading 18-12. But if the crowd thought that this game could get any closer, Brothers had enough petrol in their tank with a minute before halftime to have workaholic lock David Hammond go in under the posts. Turnbull made no mistake with the conversion to see both sides go in at half time at 18-18.
Play continued to swing end to end in the second half with both sides throwing down the gauntlet to each other early on. Brothers, needing the win to stay within reach of the top sides and Valleys, desperately trying to save their season, threw everything at each other which quite simply had all and sundry on the edge of their seats.
It was Valleys to break the deadlock first up when hardworking replacement Andrew Johnston collected his second of the afternoon after he proved unstoppable close to the tryline. Rowlinson again the master tactician with the boot saw the Diehards poke their nose in front 24-18. Just as the Diehards were beaming with confidence from their last try they sensationally knocked on from the kick off and had the Brethren on the attack in their own quarter.
After some heroic displays of defence by the Diehards, eventually the cracks appeared and Brothers centre Tim O’Brien crossed in the corner. With Turnbull under pressure to level the scores, his conversion hit the upright and saw Valleys with a two point lead at 24-22.
But this is where the game went from brilliant to exhilarating. Valleys hooker Lowry who had been warned by the referee for repeated indiscretions was marched to the sin bin for 10 minutes and gave Brothers a gift penalty right in front of the posts.
Turnbull made amends from his last attempt and slotted the penalty right through the uprights to have the game at 24-24 and Valleys down to 12 men. Valleys winger Quinton Nugent had a chance to seal the game, but the last pass was called forward by the referee.
It was then up to five-eighth Keith Eshman, who cool as a cucumber, slotted a field goal from 15m out to see the Diehards in front and look like snatching victory at 25-24.
After some further indiscretions by the Diehards at the other end of the field, the referee handed another penalty to Brothers from in front but bizarrely did not take the shot at goal and took a quick tap.
Valleys still down to 12 men held on for two sets of six before Sam Turnbull gave the Brethren one point with a field goal right in front of the sticks to make it 25-25.
With six seconds on the clock it was not going to be enough for either side to snatch victory, but the crowd was treated to a heart stopping game of rugby league.