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Sharks knock out Atherton in golden point thriller

Mossman-Port Douglas will have a shot at winning back-to-back Cairns District Rugby League A grade premierships after defeating Atherton 32-28 in a nail-biting golden point of the final at Barlow Park on Sunday.

The exciting win by defending premiers crushed Atherton's grand final aspirations and secured them a spot in the grand final against Innisfail this Saturday, also at Barlow Park.

The Sharks had a lacklustre start and quickly found themselves 12 behind on the scoreboard after Atherton came out with purpose with tries to Mae Mani and Graham Clark Junior.

Graham Clark Junior beat the Mossman-Port Douglas defence and crashed over for Atherton's second try. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Graham Clark Junior beat the Mossman-Port Douglas defence and crashed over for Atherton's second try. Photo: Maria Girgenti

Mossman eventually clicked into gear and opened up their account with a try to live wire Matthew Gibuma, followed by a double to Stanley Anau which saw them take a four point lead. 

Atherton refused to give in and scores were locked at 16-16 when Reece Munster crossed the line right on half time, until Nigel Woodleigh slotted the extras to go into the sheds with a slim two point lead.

The Roosters came out in the second half with a do-or-die attitude and posted first points through Kobe Martin and then a try to Ned Blackman which further extended their lead 28-16.

Desperate defence by the Mossman-Port Douglas defence prevented Atherton's Pio Seci from finding the try line. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Desperate defence by the Mossman-Port Douglas defence prevented Atherton's Pio Seci from finding the try line. Photo: Maria Girgenti

With seasons on the line, both teams weren't going to surrender or retreat without a fight.

Mossman soon struck back with a try to Samuki Gaidan, then a third to Anau and the all important conversions off the boot of Daniel Mareko had the scores again locked up at 28-28 with just over six minutes left in the game.

Neither team could be separated at the full time siren and after a brief meeting of team captains and officials, the outcome of the game would be decided in golden point.

Despite their share of opportunities to gain valuable metres and field goal attempts, both teams couldn't be separated after the first five minutes of golden point.

Both teams produced some flair in ball movement, scrambling defence and attack in the second five minutes of golden point but again it seemed nothing could separate them.

It wasn't until the last seconds when Aggie Gibuma hung onto a ball, and spurred by a cacophony of noise by Sharks fans streaked away with a clean pair of heels to score the winning try and book his team another grand final berth.

Golden point try scorer Aggie Gibuma is stopped by Atherton's Jermaine Pedro and Kobe Martin. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Golden point try scorer Aggie Gibuma is stopped by Atherton's Jermaine Pedro and Kobe Martin. Photo: Maria Girgenti

A positively elated Sharks coach Brian Murgha said after the match he was "really stoked" and proud of the team's efforts.

"They showed a lot of character and self belief which is what I've tried to instil in them right from preseason," Murgha said. 

He said Atherton turned up and played well, but praised his players for the way they hung in and came away with the win.

"The opposition really gave it to us and made our boys work really hard, but I always felt confident we could get the job done."

Murgha said there were a few sore bodies, but no serious injuries and players would be assessed during the week.

He felt they let the game slip against Innisfail but his boys were a lot better off for the experience. 

Sharks front rower and co-captain Joel Marama said it was like last year where mentally, it felt surreal, but at the same time, he was ecstatic about going into the grand final.

Mossman had a massive game against a huge Innisfail pack last weekend which left them drained, but they hoped for a better recovery this week.

He gave full credit to Atherton as "they never gave up and showed their true fighting spirit right until the very end." 

Marama said the team trained well in the week prior to the knockout game against Atherton and had changed up a few things in their preparation.

He paid homage to coach Murgha who ensured players from one to 17 completed their individual preparations to ensure they were ready for the tough contest against Atherton.

Marama said he knew Atherton would turn up to play as it was sudden death and the team has a bunch of energetic young men. 

"We went into the game well prepared and with a positive mindset of winning the game," Marama said.

"Our team has a real do-or-die attitude, and in this game I felt we showed a glimpse of what we are capable of when we are under pressure and down on the scoreboard."

Marama said their first priority was ensuring all the players had a good recovery before training on Tuesday. 

"We will then focus on fixing up the second half mistakes against Innisfail that cost us the game."

Mossman-Port Douglas are expecting of sea of blue, white and black this Saturday as two of their teams will feature on the grand final stage.

Cairns Brothers eliminated Yarrabah with a 38-8 win and will face Mossman-Port Douglas in the Reserve grade final, while Cairns Brothers ended Ivanhoes season with a 38-28 win and will face Edmonton in the Under 18 decider.

Innisfail A Grade coach Leon Hallie his side's main focus was to enjoy each other’s company and adjust their thinking to winning a grand final, rather than being content just to be taking part.

"To beat Mossman, we need to have a complete game in both attack and defence so we'll be paying attention to both of these areas," Haillie said. 

He said beating them a fortnight ago was a confidence boost, but it was a different game this weekend as their opposition would be on a high after their dramatic win over Atherton and are defending their title.

On grand final day at Barlow Park this Saturday, gates open at 3pm.

The Under 18 grand final between Cairns Brothers v Edmonton will kick off at 4pm; followed by Reserve grade final between Cairns Brothers v Mossman-Port Douglas at 5.30pm. The A Grade final between Mossman-Port Douglas v Innisfail is at 7pm. 

Main image: Defending premiers Mossman-Port Douglas have booked themselves a spot in this Saturday's grand final against Innisfail after defeating Atherton in golden point. Photo: Maria Girgenti