Wallaroos staged a comeback of the biblical Lazarus proportions, coming back from a 20-point deficit with 13 minutes remaining to snatch a 36-34 victory from the jaws of defeat against hosts Hervey Bay Seagulls in the Bundaberg under 18 semi-final.
Roos coach Shaun Hobson said the Seagulls dominated every element of the game at Stafford Park on Saturday until the 47th minute and looked set to get the chance to defend the title they won last year.
“They were in control at 34-14 and playing outstanding - what happened next I can only describe as a sporting miracle,” Hobson said.
“A left side raid resulted in a Lochlan Greenfield try, then in the next set, a second tackle chip-and-chase from our own half Tyson Allen saw him run the length to score.
“A set or two later, another raid resulted in Greenfield out-running the cover defence, scoring again from about the half-way line.
“Then with two minutes to go, trailing still by four, Ethan Ballard carried four defenders over to score under the posts with Tom Colvin converting to put us in front with [90 seconds] to play.
“Due to a terrible injury to a Seagulls player in the backfield with an ambulance being called, a decision was agreed to by both coaches to finish the game on field 2, where we were able to complete the set and make the two tackles to secure a remarkable and astonishing victory.
"It was something I have never witnessed or seen in my 23 years of coaching the game."
Allen also bagged a double, but Hobson said Ballard, captain and powerhouse front rower Keian Grogan, Kyjelt Varley and Bailey Eckert were all outstanding, playing themselves to a stand-still.
“But the last 13 minutes belonged to halves Jorden Kemble and Tom Colvin, orchestrating every raid - every option was correct, every kick pass run was perfect and the whole team just grew and believed, backing each other time after time,” the Wallaroos coach said.
They will be underdogs when they host minor premiers Wests in the grand final at Eskdale Park this Saturday after the Panthers thrashed them 40-16, 36-12 and 34-4 in their three meetings in the rounds, but those results count for nothing now.
Grogan declared they can definitely beat the Panthers.
“Obviously we haven’t had a great record against them at the moment but we can stretch them to the limit – we have come together really well at the right time, and with a good positive mind-set on the day, we can get over the line,” the Wallaroos captain said.
“Not many teams have gone through us – they have to go around us which is a goal of ours.”
Centre Dylan Crockford also notched a double for the Seagulls and one could feel their pain to play their hearts out, only to lose in such circumstances.
Hooker Dylan Bennett, who turned in his usual strong all-round game and was also among their try-scores, said they were pretty gutted after putting it all together in their best performance of the season before their shot at the title was snatched from their grasp.
“I’m not sure how we lost, we were up and fair few points and must have switched off,” Bennett said.
The Seagulls however outgunned Wallaroos 16-10 in the under 16 semi and Waves Tigers 26-4 in the under 13 encounter, now meeting minor premiers Bundaberg Grizzlies and Brothers in their respective grand finals.
Wests defeated Brothers 20-18 in the under 15s to book a showdown for the silverware with Seagulls, while Waves Tigers outgunned Wests 20-6 in the under 14 contest to advance to the decider against the Brethren.
The under 13, 15 and 16 grand finals will be played on a bumper on Saturday, while the under 14 decider will be played in Bundaberg at the Waves Sports Complex on Sunday.
Preliminary final results
Under 18: Wallaroos 36 (Tyson Allen 2, Lochlan Greenfield 2, Bailey Eckart, Keian Grogan, Ethan Ballard tries; Tom Colvin 4 goals) defeated Hervey Bay Seagulls 34 (Dylan Crockford 2, William Thorogood, Gula-Bari Shillingsworth, Dylan Bennett tries; 3 goals)
Under 16: Hervey Bay Seagulls 16 defeated Wallaroos 10
Under 15*: Wests 20 (Cody Brassington, Corban Shearer, Cayleb Johnson, Khodi Docherty tries; Ryan Bugeja 2 goals) defeated Brothers 18 (Jack Picaro, Zander Evans, Matthew Smith, Ben McLaughlin tries; Ezekiel Monckton goal)
*Match abandoned by referee in 56th minute
Under 14: Waves Tigers 20 (Tom Morcom 2, Jarrod Warren, Noah Law tries; Noah Law 2 goals) defeated Wests 6 (Cooper Black try, Lucas Brough goal)
Under 13: Hervey Bay Seagulls 26 (Braidan Houliston 2, Tatem Henke, Cooper Fitzgerald tries; Michael Parsgaard 3 goals) defeated Waves Tigers 4 (Brody Allan try)