Jimboomba Thunder produced arguably their best performance of the year to snatch the Open 3 Southside grand final from the jaws of Waterford Demons 36-22 on Saturday afternoon.
Played in front of a packed crowd at WJ Scott Park Holland Park, the Thunder came from behind to produce a determined comeback in what was a thrill-a-minute game.
Thunder’s indestructible second rower Jaymen Kupfer and the hulking Matt Smith were absolutely brilliant for the winning side, with both easily neck-and-neck for best players on the park.
Things did however look ominous for the Thunder early on, as Waterford skipped away to lead through prop Andrew Avauli, who stormed onto a beautiful pass from hooker Tyler Burfield to open the scoring.
Played in sweltering conditions, the Demons shocked the Thunder once more, as Burfield’s sneaky lunge from dummy half saw the tireless hooker ground the ball right on the line to extend the lead for the minor premiers.
Back-to back penalties to the Thunder however inched Jimboomba closer to the Demons line and in the 26th minute, the Thunder finally got on the board, giving their supporters something to cheer about. It was winger Wade Sullivan who produced a try out of nothing to cross in the corner.
Three minutes later, a perfectly executed cross-field kick from halfback Ben Francis had Thunder’s Adam Leach get his name on the scoresheet, leaping above the opposition to go in and score a great Thunder try, locking the scores up at 12-12 right on the halftime hooter.
Waterford then posted the first points of the second half straight from the kick off when lock Fraser Tekura-Nepu twisted and turned his body and planted the ball over his head to somehow get the ball down, despite the attention of the Thunder defence.
Another Waterford try to fullback Josh Harrington saw the Demons out to a 22-12 lead, after some good field position against the wind, via backrower Charlie Ngatuakana and Rua Vigo.
But the incredible fightback by the Thunder late in the game was inspirational.
Prop Smith singlehandedly scored the Thunder’s next try, bursting through the middle and carrying four defenders with him over the line to crash in under the sticks.
Another Thunder try to replacement Guy Hazelwood from close range came on the back of some devastating mid-field running by second rower Kupfer, who took an incredible three rucks in the set.
With Jimboomba hitting the lead for the first time 24-22, Waterford were out on their feet from the heroic comeback of all comebacks.
Surging runs by Smith and Kupfer were truly remarkable and fed off onto the other Thunder players who seemed to grow that extra leg.
With four minutes remaining, Thunder Fullback Khy Marriott, weaved his magic and showed incredible courage and guile to put his body on the line to crash in outwide.
The telling blow came in the last 15 seconds, when halfback Francis scored a freakish solo try to leap in the air and score what was the icing on the cake in an absolute thriller grand final.
Final Score: Jimboomba Thunder 36 def Waterford Demons 22