Last chance for Highlands grand final glory

The Bluff Rabbitohs are through to this year's Central Highlands Men's decider, reversing the previous week's result over Blackwater to win 30-14 and book a home grand final.

Their "adopted" Women's team also shared the same success, with the Blackwater Crushettes off to the big dance after clutching an 18-12 win over the Emerald Tigers.

The Central Highlands finals series was in full swing last Friday night with the Women's major semi-final and Men's minor semi-final played in Blackwater to kick start the playoffs.

The Crushettes and Tigers had a dress rehearsal the previous week with the Tigers upsetting the minor premiers and when the Tigers led 6-4 at the break in the game that mattered, it was ominous that history could be repeating itself.

The Tigers scored early in the second stanza to hold a crucial eight-point lead, until the Blackwater juggernaut awoke.

Last year's beaten grand finallists scored 14 unanswered points in the final half hour, including a double to stellar rookie-fullback Brooke Slatter, to claim at shot a premiership redemption.

Blackwater's Mackenzie Beames. Photo: Damian Freiberg
Blackwater's Mackenzie Beames. Photo: Damian Freiberg

Whilst it wasn't the night for tries in the women's game; the men surely made up for that with a staggering 13 four-pointers scored in Springsure's 42-30 win over Clermont in the Men's minor semi.

The spine match-ups created the most intrigue as the lead kept changing hands early in the contest, until an injury to linchpin hooker Brodee Barrett allowed the blue men to capitalise and score four unanswered tries in just over 15 minutes.

And when the Mountain Men continued the onslaught after the break to lead 42-16 with nine to go, the green and gold army knew it wasn't to be.

 

Springsure Mountain Men captain Jared Owens looks forward to next week's challenge after defeating Clermont 42-30 last night.

Posted by Central Highlands Rugby League on Friday, 24 August 2018

On Saturday night, Dysart and the Cowgirls met in Bluff for the Women's do-or-die decider.

As the much-needed rain fell, the Cowgirls had the 'band back together' and dominated, scoring tries and forcing errors, to lead 18-4 at the break.

The second half was much like the first; their representative players stepping up to the occasion to steer the ship and win 32-16.

In a footnote to this game, congratulations to Dysart's Juanita McDonald who claimed a second half hat-trick after making the commitment to fly home from Brisbane to play each weekend in the past three weeks after relocating for work.

 

“I’m so blessed.” Deb Barchard speaks after the Emerald Cowgirls' 32-16 win over Dysart.

Posted by Central Highlands Rugby League on Saturday, 25 August 2018

The best was saved to last with the whole of the Central Highlands waiting in anticipation for who would host this season's big day.

Only one point separated Bluff and Blackwater on the ladder leading into the match and the Crushers had upset the dream run for Bluff the previous weekend in the Kelly O'Brien Shield.

The Rabbitohs relished the return of Mitch Wyatte from injury and his experience sure did make a difference.

It was a fairly even contest for most of the first half, but two quick tries in the final seven minutes of the first half gave Bluff an 18-10 lead at the break, which they treasured.

With the rain really settling in, it was a completely different second half as ball security became the number priority for both teams.

Kevin Bartley gave the Crushers a sniff with the opening try of the closing 40, but their poor competition rate allowed Bluff to run away 30-14 and book themselves a home grand final and an attempt to redeem last year's premiership heartbreak.

The win to the Crushettes and Bluff earns them the week off; meanwhile tomorrow, Blackwater hosts the prelims with only one penultimate spot remaining in each respective grand final.

At 5.30pm, the Emerald Tigers Ladies take on their cross-town rivals, the Emerald Cowgirls and despite it being played in neutral territory, it's still a derby.

Jasmine Walters is back for the Tigers after representing the Capricornia Open Schoolgirls and will likely take on the hooking duties, whilst the Cowgirls are set to be fully-fit, despite injury concerns for Queensland Country representative Elle Stitt last Saturday.

The Tigers have size and power in their forward pack which can open the gate for their speedy backs to run amok; but the Cowgirls' pack is equally as strong, led by Stitt and fellow Queensland Country rep Deb Barchard.

The difference will be in the halves – if the Cowgirls can use the entire field and spread the ball as well as last Saturday, they're in with a chance to play in the big dance.

The Men's clash between Blackwater and Springsure is set to be one for the ages.

Blackwater would be ruing last week's defeat and should be pumped up at home to rewrite last week's wrongs.

Their big-name recruits; Dan (prop) and Josh (halfback) Tanner, Dean Blackman (hooker) and Jai Ingram (back row) are primed for big games and will be the ones to lead their side to victory.

For Springsure, Jared Owens is set for a blinder in what could be his last for the men in blue.

On form, Blackwater just edge out Springsure, but to quote the great Bruce McAvaney ... "this game is delicious".

WATCH THE LIVE STREAM OF THE CH PRELIMINARY FINALS

SEMI FINALS RESULTS

PURCELL'S ENGINEERING MEN'S COMPETITION

1v2: BLUFF RABBITOHS 30 (Blake Vesey 3, Justin Daniels, Kelly Conway, Chris Conway tries; Leigh Coghill 2, Mitch Power goals) defeated BLACKWATER CRUSHERS 14 (Jai Ingram, Michael Morrissey, Kevin Bartley tries; Josh Tanner goal) at Macca's Oval, Bluff

3v4: SPRINGSURE MOUNTAIN MEN 42 (Charlie Mayne 2, Ray Ebsworth 2, Jared Owens, Zac Russell, Johdin Mathers, Aaron Ansell tries; Jared Owens 5 goals) defeated CLERMONT BEARS 30 (Dan McNamara, Matt Macnamara, Blake Waters, Brodee Barrett, Dylan Brandenburg; Dan McNamara 5 goals) at Hinrick's Oval, Blackwater

ALLIED PICKFORDS WOMEN'S COMPETITION

1v2: BLACKWATER CRUSHETTES 18 (Brooke Slatter 2, Miranda Davidson tries; Zoe Mackay 3 goals) defeated EMERALD TIGERS LADIES 12 (Kelsie Parter, Tamyra Hunter tries; Maria Rawiri 2 goals) at Hinrick's Oval, Blackwater

3v4: EMERALD COWGIRLS 32 (Kailah Rogers 2, Deb Barchard 2, Denise Chaplin, MIccala Forbes, Rebecca Stokes tries; Kailah Rogers 2 goals) defeated DYSART BULLS LADIES 16 (Juanita McDonald 3, Tegan Rolfe tries) at Macca's Oval, Bluff