Brent Hass was a hero, kicking a difficult field goal on the siren to clinch an unlikely 19-18 breakthrough victory for Waves Tigers over the previously unbeaten Wests Panthers in their Bundaberg Under 18 local derby at Salter Oval on Sunday.
The injury-ravaged Tigers had started the season with back-to-back losses but they found their tooth in the “Battle of the Big Cats” and while Wests were without their try-machine co-captain Jensen Deamer, Waves could only muster three players for the bench.
They lost one of them to injury early on, so the Panthers could not use that as an excuse, and goal-kicking was also a factor as they were beaten despite crossing for four tries to three.
The Tigers really aimed up and led 12-4 at half-time after tries to crafty halfback Joel Cox and Tongan wrecking ball front rower Folau Haveli.
Then after Wests had drawn level, Waves surged again and established a six-point buffer with a try to blockbusting front rower Will Richardson (pictured in hero image) and conversion to Cox.
The Panthers again levelled the ledger with seven minutes remaining with a superb individual try and their first conversion of the match to captain and high-quality hooker Joel Baldwin.
But they re-opened the door for their rivals by conceding a penalty in possession in the next set and having a player sin-binned, then conceding another penalty in the next play, but Waves declined the opportunity for a shot at goal within kick-able range both times.
Wests’ defence muscled up to deny them a try, and a draw looked to be the result until Hass was the third receiver in a desperate last play and somehow was on target with his one-point shot from an acute angle 30 metres out to the jubilation of his team-mates and supporters.
Hass, a 17-year-old Isis District High Year 12 student, who played all his football from under 12 through to under 18 last year for the Panthers, said it was his first ever field goal but it was a play that he would always remember.
“Neither did I (expect to kick it) but the siren went so I had a crack and it went through,” Hass said.
Hass, who lives at Woodgate, a coastal township 56 kilometres from Bundaberg, had signed with Childers for this season to be closer to training.
“But they ended up not having enough players and Waves gave me a call to say that they would be happy to have me and I didn’t have a team, so I played for them,” Hass said.
Sunday was his second game for the Blue and Golds after he missed the season opener as there was not room for him after his late transfer to them.
Now they have broken through, despite the team still being light on numbers, Hass believes they can go on to challenge for the title.
“I’m really proud of the boys – we showed a lot of heart in defence and we just got over the line in attack – but it was a spirited effort by both sides, not just us,” Hass said.
In a robust team performance, Tigers coach Aaron Earnshaw named Richardson as their best, ahead of Cox.
“I knew a win was coming but when was the question – the kids have really worked hard – what we have prided ourselves on for the last year and a half is consistency and effort at training and I knew they would come through – it has been very tough for us with three players counted out for the season (injured),” Earnshaw said.
“Will (Richardson) and Joel (Cox) were very good but everyone dug in.
“We have players from all over the place – apart from Brent, there is Joel from Burrum Heads (104km away), Folau all the way from Mundubbera (184km), four boys from Gayndah (148km), Wade Jensen, Jackson Lee, Ben Buczma and Lyndon Kenny, and Maverick Fischer from Gin Gin (50km) but they all travel for training at least once a week, which is a big commitment.”
The other scheduled match for the round, between Wallaroos and Hervey Bay in Maryborough on Saturday was postponed due to heavy rain, and before that catch-up game, Wests are on top of the table with two wins, with the other three sides having one win each.
In the shortened 10-round season, Earnshaw is hoping to have a few players back from injury for their clash with Wallaroos at Salter Oval this Sunday after Wests head to Hervey Bay to meet Seagulls on Saturday.
“We’ve got three players who won’t be back, Matt Nejman, Ryan Gibbs and Mitchell Sands, and we’ll just do what we can with what we have got but this win should give the boys a lot of confidence,” Earnshaw said.
Sunday was a red-letter day in Tiger-land with also their under-13’s having a good win over the Panthers 30-8 with multi-talented halfback Jimmy Gear and second rower Brody Allan each bagging hat-tricks of tries.
WAVES TIGERS 19 (Joel Cox, Will Richardson, Folau Haveli tries; Joel Cox 3 goals; Brent Hass field goal) d WESTS PANTHERS 18 (Torey Kirby 2, Ethan Evans, Joel Baldwin tries; Joel Baldwin goal).
BUNDABERG GRIZZLIES 26 (Tyrese Johnson, Bryden Blair, Riley Kearton, Caleb Evans, Zander Kerr tries; Zander Kerr 3 goals) d BROTHERS 18 (Tumeli Nico, Kayne Mitchell, Mitchell Allen, Mark Malau tries; Kayne Mitchell goal).
WESTS PANTHERS 16 (Rhys Turnbull, Cordan Shearer, Khodi Docherty tries; Ryan Bugeja 2 goals) d BROTHERS 6 (Ezekiel Monckton try, goal).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 24 (Kayleb Angeles 2, Kyal Pitchford, Elijah Mason, Harry Armstrong tries; Dane Blanke, Eden Wheeler goals) d EASTS MAGPIES 0.
BROTHERS 38 (Blake Powter 3, Zac Ellem, Jack Schmidt, Dawson Hess, Dane Zardus, Jett Maher tries; Blake Powter 2, Dawson Hess goals) d WESTS PANTHERS 0.
WAVES TIGERS 30 (Jimmy Gear 3, Brody Allan 3 tries; Jimmy Gear 2, Brody Allan goals) d WESTS PANTHERS 8 (Xavier Stanley, Brody Lake tries).
BROTHERS 34 (Oliver Smith, Jomar Gustilo, Toby Collins, Daniel Cairns, Logan Toms, Ronan Fritz tries; Jomar Gustilo 5 goals) d EASTS MAGPIES 16 (Bentley Rizzo 3 tries; Joshua Garland, Ryan Charteris).