There was no fairytale finish for the Under 18 Western Mustangs today as then went down 48-12 to an impressive Parramatta Eels side in the National Final match at Belmore Oval.
An excellent overall performance from the Eels and their enormous first half proved too much for the Mustangs who could not match their high level of play from the Queensland State Final.
However, this was the inaugural year of the Mustangs as an entity, and their journey to the National Final stage is an outstanding achievement that should be celebrated. The team also gave the Toowoomba region their first taste of a state title since the Clydesdales triumphed in the Queensland Cup in 1996.
Mustangs coach Eugene Seddon said his players could reflect on this season with pride.
“We did not go into this season with our eye on the finals. We went into this season wanting to make good ground. The boys should be proud of themselves,” Seddon said.
“Winning the Mal Meninga Cup, and playing in a national championship is a great feat for the side.”
It was a hard first half for the Mustangs who had the ball once inside Eels’ 30. In the first 15 minutes of the game, the Queenslanders only had the ball for two sets.
“We lost the mark early in the first half, and we were unable to recover,” Seddon said.
The Eels had a great start to the game with a 28-0 lead at the halftime break and were able to keep the Mustangs tied up until early in the second half.
A nice play from a scrum saw Alex Dunemann step in for the injured Trav Turnbull to kick a left-foot chip which led to Denzel Burns putting the Queensland state champions on the board.
Soon after, a Mustangs 40/20 kick put the Eels under pressure and resulted in hooker Zac Stevens going over for their second try. Skipper Cory Paix made no mistakes with this two conversion attempts.
Seddon said he was pleased with the effort of his team, but conceded that Parramatta were too strong.
“Credit to our boys though, we only lost the second half 16-12,” he said.
The side did an excellent job to keep the Eels to only 16 points in the second half and despite the loss, the Western Mustangs need to remember what they did achieve in 2016.
Captain Paix was proud of his team-mates and their efforts and thanked the coaching staff for their commitment.
“It has been a long season for us, and it is a credit to the boys for making it this far,” Paix said.
“To even get a team in the competition is a great achievement and hopefully, inspires younger players to come through to play for the Mustangs. It might even pave the way for a future (Intrust Super) Cup side.”
The side’s grassroots coaching and support staff included Eugene Seddon (coach), Matt Schulz (assistant coach), Nev Brauer (FAO), Geoff Bainbridge (FAO) and Michael Krog (LeagueSafe).
PARRAMATTA EELS 48 (Ethan Parry 3, Haze Dunster 2, Dylan Brown 2, John-Paul Nohra, Joseph Taipari, William Kei tries; Kyle Schneider 3, Joseph Taipari goals) def WESTERN MUSTANGS 12 (Denzel Burns, Zachary Stevens tries; Cory Paix 2 goals) at Belmore Oval.
Halftime: Parramatta 28-0
Man of the Match: Ethan Parry (Parramatta)