THE combined Tasco Timbers Bluedogs Under 18s won the chance to defend their 2012 title with a hard-fought win over the Bega Roosters last Sunday.
They will now progress to the Grand Final against Cooma, to be played in Bega this Sunday.
In a tightly fought first half, the Bluedogs discarded their usual slow start to games. This time they came out firing with a try to Ryan Becker in the first 3 minutes of play.
The ‘Blues were dominant all over the field and when Jackson Standen went in for a try they lead 10 points to nil, after 10 minutes.
A fumble by the Bluedogs from the kick-off gave Bega their best opportunity of the match so far. Second rower, Dowdle opened Bega’s account for the day.
Shortly after, Bayley Royle replied with his first try of the day for the ‘Blues. From here the Bluedogs appeared to drop their intensity.
Kelly, the Roosters fullback, was next to score bringing the scoreline to 14 points to 10 in the Bluedogs favour. The Roosters were on top at this stage and only some desperate, last ditch defence was keeping their attacking raids at bay.
When Pilbeam scored in the last minute of play, the Roosters were able to take a narrow 16 – 14 lead into the half time break.
Coach Parkes’ words of encouragement at half time seemed to inspire the Bluedogs. From the opening minutes of the half, they went on a try scoring spree.
James McMillan scored from short range to wrest the lead back to the ‘Blues at 20 to 16.
A period of play ensued where neither team was willing to concede in defence. At the midway point of the half, Royle was rewarded with his second try of the day.
From here the Bluedogs forwards really took control. Harry Sellers’ blockbusting surges were taking their toll on the Roosters as were Beau Britten, Ben Claxton and Standen.
When McMillan busted the line and ran 40 metres to score his second, the writing was on the wall. The room created by the forwards was capitalised upon by the backs.
Jarrod Dewberry made several incisive runs into the back field and Nic Rosten scored a superb wingers try in the corner, on the end of a slick backline movement. This took the score to 38 points to 16.
Dane Casey capped a fine game with a well earned try as did Liam Beazley.
In the last minute of play the Roosters kicked into the in-goal, regathered, and scored through Duncan to bring the final score line to 50 points to 22 in the Bluedogs favour.
Kurt Lomas and Kye Byrnes both returned from injury and had solid games. Both will be better for the run, as the saying goes.
The interchange players Nick Hehir, Dean May, Wayde Aitken and Casey Gilbert all performed well when injected into the game, carrying out the coaches instructions perfectly.
The Bluedogs will go into Sunday’s Grand Final as underdogs. Cooma have not had their colours lowered all season.
Blue’s Captain Zach Mikula will compete in his third consecutive U18 Grand Final, already having tasted victory in the previous two. His performance may be pivotal in the outcome. A win would be just rewards for his efforts.
All rugby league supporters are encouraged to come and support the young Bluedogs in their quest for a “three-peat”. Some of the best young talent in Group 16 will be on display at 10am in Bega on Sunday.