Millmerran storm towards Finals
The 2015 TRL season is certainly gathering momentum with just six rounds remaining before the finals series kicks off on the weekend of September 5-6.
According to Chairman Paul Dean, we can hardly complain about the standard of footy across all grades. Every weekend has positions at the top end of the ladder contested with teams jostling for a firm foothold and ride through for a finals appearance.
One club that is bowling over all before them as they gather momentum in the run to the finals is ‘Berghofer Cup’ 2nd Division leaders the Millmerran Rams. The maroon and white Rams, the club that gave the footy world International halfback Mark Murray, are in their second season back in the Toowoomba Rugby League after an absence of a decade. The former high achieving A Grade club that first entered the TRL in 1967, affiliated with the Wattles Warriors last year to fill the Warriors 2nd Division vacancy, and has dominated the 2nd Division competition since their return.
They are currently undefeated in fixtures in 2015, but they did fall at the finish line in the Toowoomba Rugby League mid-season championship 2nd Division President’s Cup. While the Rams started favourites to win a second successive mid-year championship, the Valleys Roosters lifted for the occasion and snatched a 36-34 victory on the full time hooter.
To say the Brandon Gibbs coached Rams claimed vengeance in Sunday’s Round 16 rematch against Valleys is somewhat of an understatement, given they led 60-0 at fulltime.
Team manager Joelene Hess is a very busy woman as she chronicles the Ram’s statistics weekly, she’s dealing with more figures than most. Unbeaten in 10 from 10 fixtures, the Millmerran side have scored a massive 492 points to date, at an amazing average of 49.2 a game. Their hooker Thomas Halford is having a blinder of a season scoring 16 tries so far, while team mate and lock Jamie Meddings has 13 touch downs to his credit. Halfback James Sinclair has a personal tally of 150 points from 71 goals and two tries from the 10 matches played.
Millmerran have regrouped for the second round with their focus squarely on the finals and maintaining their unbeaten fixture status as they aim for the premiership that eluded them after their 2014 grand final loss to Pittsworth.
Round 16 Results:
The ‘Hutchies Cup’ A Grade competition has Wattles and Highfields at the helm, but given Highfields enjoy a bye this weekend Wattles have an opportunity to move to clear leader if they finish ahead of Dalby. Dalby are in fourth place a premiership point ahead of the Pittsworth Danes after nailing the Danes 36-22 last weekend in a vital result. Dalby are running in some good form and at home won’t be taken lightly by Wattles. Gatton are just a win behind Wattles and Highfields and are keeping them honest as all three top liners eye off the top grade minor premiership. In the space of three competition points we have contenders Pittsworth (18), Warwick (16) & Valleys (15), the Danes in fifth place and Warwick and Valleys belting on the top five door.
Wattles v Valleys
There was plenty at stake when the Wattles Warriors and the Valleys Roosters clashed in Round 16 fixtures at Clifton’s Platz Oval last Sunday. A win was vital for the Roosters as they scramble for a top five place, but alas it wasn’t to be. Wattles scratched through to win 36-30 in a nail-bitting finish to maintain their standing on the top rung of the ‘Hutchinson Builders’ premiership ladder.
Valleys were in urgent need of a positive result, and while it all appeared lost by the 63rd minute with Wattles steaming ahead with a 36-14 lead, the Roosters dug deep in a final charge that very nearly delivered victory.
It was looking like the Warriors were going to storm home, but the pendulum swung back the Roosters way and when winger Joe Henderson ran in a try in the 66th minute it signalled a red and black comeback. Henderson indicated he was up to the task alone, with a mirror image touchdown minutes later.
The Warriors were certainly looking rattled as the clock ticked by slowing in the final five minutes with Valleys trailing 24-36. A try by busy Valleys five-eight Ben Cook set up a pressure cooker finish, Wattles ahead 36-30 for the final two minutes.
Wattles fullback and ‘Player’s Player’ Corey Blades were an ever present danger to the opposition defence.
Brothers v Oakey
The Brothers Leprechauns hoisted themselves from the base of the premiership ladder when they finished ahead of the Oakey Bears 38-24 at Toowoomba’s Glenholme Park, and while both sides are still a chance of finishing the season in last place, Brothers took a step towards avoiding back to back wooden spoons.
It was anyone’s game at halftime, the Bears trailing 10-16, but Brothers lifted in front of their home supporters to pocket the competition points.
Gatton v Souths
The Gatton Hawks built on their campaign to rise back to the premiership lead when they accounted for the Souths Tigers at Toowoomba’s Clive Berghofer Stadium on Saturday evening in a dominant 52-12 performance. Gatton’s flying winger Billy Jackwitz, leading touchdown exponent in the TRL currently, ran in a hat trick of tries as his contribution to overwhelming Souths.
Classy Hawks fullback Steve Franciscus ran in two tries of the total of 10 scored by his side, a performance that saw the lads from the Lockyer kick back after their last start loss to Warwick.
Dalby v Pittsworth
The Dalby Diehards consolidated their position in the TRL top five at the expense of fellow top five opponents the Pittsworth Danes with a 36-22 victory. In effect the two clubs swapped ladder rungs, Dalby easing in to fourth spot while the Danes tumbled a rung to fifth.
The Diehards held a handy 18-10 lead at half time in front of the Pittsworth Rugby League Club crowd, adding a try immediately after the break to lead 22-10.
The Danes weren’t closing up shop though and two vital tries saw them level the ledger at 22-22 with 20 minutes remaining in the game.
Dalby had saved a fuel reserve though and found another gear to score three tries in the final 15 minutes to stride confidently to victory, Diehards Dylan Taylor and Marcus Jensen chiming in with two tries apiece.
Highfields v Goondiwindi
The Goondiwindi Boars throughout a strong challenge against the top of the table Highfields Eagles at Highfields Kuhls Road Reserve on Sunday but fell short of the traction required with the home side winning 26-22 to keep they place on the premiership ladder’s top rung.
The Boars trailed 6-14 at halftime and had the better of the second stanza, but not enough to reel in the Eagles.
Wayne John Weribone scored a double in the Highfields total, while big mobile forward Rihari Peeti was named Man of the Match and collected his second TRL ‘Hutchies Mug’ award for the 2015 season.
Round 17 Preview:
Two matches in this weekend’s Round 17 fixtures are vital for clubs involved as they try to lock themselves into a top five spot and any chance of a finals series appearance, the Toowoomba Rugby League finals looming in just five Rounds.
Coming off wins over Brothers and Pittsworth in their last two outings, Dalby will be all out to cause an upset over the Wattles Warriors at the Dalby Rugby League Grounds, and consolidate their fourth spot on the ladder, just a point above fifth placed Pittsworth.
Wattles will obviously be keen for a win to put some space between them and fellow top five clubs as they focus on the minor premiership. Fellow ladder leaders Highfields have the bye round this weekend and so a win for the Warriors will see them move clear of the pack.
Another match the local League community will watch in anticipation is the clash between third-placed Gatton and the seventh placed Valleys Roosters. Gatton led the A Grade completion for much of the season, but second Round losses to Wattles and Warwick have resulted in them stumbling from the top rung. They are a more than capable outfit though and will be a challenging hurdle for Valleys who are three points shy of fifth place. However, the Roosters, who have the home ground advantage today, can’t be sold short against any opponent and almost stole the show against ladder leaders Wattles last Sunday with a late charge just falling short of a win 36-30.
The Oakey Bears will host the Pittsworth Danes on the Bears home turf at Kevin Mikelborough Oval, and one would expect the forth placed Danes to finish ahead of the last placed home side. Oakey lost out in last week’s bottom of the ladder face off with Brothers and there would have to be a significant form reversal to see them trouble Pittsworth. Having said that they are one of just two teams that have defeated competition leaders Wattles in fixtures this season. A win for the Danes will see them hold fifth place or possibly ease into fourth.
Toowoomba’s premier rugby league venue Clive Berghofer Stadium will host the Souths Tigers verses Warwick Cowboys clash, Warwick well rested after a bye last week.
The Tigers are currently in ninth place with just two wins this season, and will have their hands full with a Warwick outfit on the edge of the top five and chomping at the bit to join the ladder leaders. They rolled the powerful Gatton Hawks in their last outing and will be looking to carry that form on to the Stadium. Souths have proven in the second round that they can be competitive, but lack of consistency in recent weeks has failed them.
The Goondiwindi Boars are welcoming Brothers to Gilbert Oval in Gunsynd territory and will be all out to pocket the premiership points on offer in front of their home crowd, and advance a rung up the premiership ladder.
The suggestions that the Boars would certainly cause opponents angst in the run into the finals series wasn’t wide of the mark, but alas for Goondiwindi winning results haven’t come their way as often as they would have liked. They caused premiership top liners Highfields some nervous moments last week before losing by a try, and actually had the better of the second stanza.
Brothers are coming off a win over fellow bottom of the ladder club Oakey last week, and will need to be fully focused against the Boars if they are going to post successive wins.
‘Hutchinson Builders’ a Grade Premiership Ladder after Round 16: Wattles 24, Highfields 24, Gatton 22, Dalby 19, Pittsworth 18, Warwick 16, Valleys 15, Goondiwindi 8, Souths 5, Brothers 5, Oakey 4.
Round 17 Fixtures:
Saturday – Goondiwindi v Brothers, Gilbert Oval, Goondiwindi; Dalby v Wattles (Allora-Clifton), Dalby Rugby League Grounds, Dalby; Valleys v Gatton, Herb Steinohrt Oval, Toowoomba
Sunday – Souths v Warwick, Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba; Oakey v Pittsworth, Trevor Mikelborough Oval, Oakey; Highfields bye.