Sunday’s clash between the top two sides in the TRL lived up to its billing.
The Wattles Warriors secured a place in the 2014 Grand Final with a hard fought 24-16 victory over an aggressive but ultimately an ill disciplined Gatton Hawks.
The match commenced with some brutal forward exchanges until Wattles representative full- back Jackson Green finished off a trade mark pass from halfback Matthew Duggan to cross just to the right of the posts.
Duggan converted and Wattles went to a six-point lead. Mercurial Gatton veteran, fullback Steve Franciscus, exhibited why he is an elite player in the TRL. Firstly with a brilliant solo effort to register Gatton’s first try then a magnificent offload to his left winger Cameron Nichols who planted the ball in the left hand corner for Gatton to go to a 10-6 lead. Sharp shooter Jason Wilmot missed the conversion.
Wattles grabbed a brace of tries before the half-time break and the score was 16-10 in their favour as both sides went to “oranges”. The second half was scrappy as both sides struggled to complete sets and over played their hands. The Gatton tactic of continually pressuring Wattles half-back Matthew Duggan when kicking back fired as referee Greer Beck remained vigilant in his defence of the kicker and penalised the Hawks.
The final count of 17-6 was mostly a result of taking the kicker out or knocking the half back over when not in possession. This tactic led to the sin binning of two players in the second half and whilst tenacious with 12 players for 50 percent of the second stanza it would ultimately cost the Hawks victory. The final score of 24-16, in favour of the Warriors, brought great relief to their long suffering supporters with a grand final victory within sight after a 17 year hiatus.
On Saturday the Warwick Cowboys came to town with a great attitude and left the understrength but overall disappointing Souths Tigers to dwell on a season that could have been. The Cowboys out enthused and out played the Tigers in most facets of the game and ran out 34-16 victors.
The Souths Tigers, as a club, registered their eighth consecutive finals defeat since losing the first grade grand final in 2012, a record that the committee, players and supporters would not be happy with. The Cowboys deserved their win and now face country cousin the Gatton Hawks to qualify for the big dance in September. I am loath to separate the two sides and will sit on the fence as both stake claims for the last game of the season. Good luck to both sides and let’s hope the weather provides a perfect day for spectators and players alike.