Dayboro Cowboys have secured the second spot in this year’s Intech Open 1 Men’s grand final, defeating Wests Mitchelton Panthers 18-6 in Saturday's preliminary final at Ken Hayward Oval.
With the Cowboys going down the previous week by one point against Souths Inala, the Cowboys came out all guns blazing in what was an emotionally-charged game.
Having shrugged off the opening exchanges up the middle, the Cowboys were first to score for the afternoon through halfback Ben Coogan.
The clever halfback sliced his way through the Panthers defence to reach out and score out-wide in front of the very large and vocal crowd.
With a lot riding on this game, there were several punishing hits by both sides with Cowboys forwards Andrew Ratana, Troyden Watene and Ryan Hill the pick of the bunch for Dayboro.
However, the Panthers were no pushovers with lock Aaron Vessey and cult hero Liam 'Gros' Groessler outstanding in a losing side, holding their own against the more experienced Cowboys pack.
It's said with any points on offer in such an important game, you simply take what you can get.
That’s exactly what the Cowboys did after a lazy head high tackle saw the Cowboys gifted two points in front of the sticks.
Kane Zalewski easily slotted the gift two points to see Dayboro edge out 6-0.
But right on the stroke of half-time, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game.
Panthers Keanan Yow Yee caught the Cowboys napping on the right edge and he made no mistake crashing his way over the line to put Mitchelton on the board to have the scores locked up at 6-6 at the interval.
The second half had developed into a game of bash and barge with both forward packs still engaging into some brutal exchanges.
However, Cowboys captain / coach Zalewski had other ideas as he continued to dominate with his kicking and passing game that would eventually be the catalyst in winning this game.
After six minutes of play in the second half, the skipper set up his sides next try to nudge the Cowboys in front, slipping a short pass to Tyler Isdale who was well deserving of a four pointer.
With the conversion landed, Dayboro had just stuck their noses in front at 12-6 with the game still anybody’s for the taking.
Clint Dolan’s Panthers though are not ones to throw in the towel and there were patches of good plays from Mitchelton that had the Cowboys on the back foot through US International Kristian Freed and Dane Adams who still had a lot of petrol in the tank.
But cometh the man, cometh the hour; Zalewski again set up his side's final try of the afternoon, throwing a superb pass to powerful centre Blain Cleghorn, who crashed in to score a fantastic Cowboys try.
With the Panthers reduced to 12 men for another high tackle, the Cowboys' Isdale accepted the gift two points in front of the sticks to see Dayboro hang on to win what was a hard, physical game of rugby league.
The Cowboys will now meet the Warriors in Saturday’s grand final at Ian Clarkson Oval Rochedale, in what promises to be a mouth-watering matchup.