THE combined Pam-bula/Merimbula/Bombala Bluedogs Under 18s won a thrilling Grand Final tussle last Sunday to add to their title won in 2011.
The match was highly entertaining, with both teams scoring four tries, having spectators on the edge of their seats right until the fulltime siren.
Opponents Tathra/Co-bargo got the better start to the game, with fullback Ayden Morris making plenty of metres with the ball. A try level with the posts was converted for a six point lead.
Bluedogs coach, Jamie Parkes, had an awesome interchange bench at his disposal, and when he injected Kieran Warnock and Justin Hehir into the game he had immediate results.
Firstly, the defence stiffened and ground became harder to find for the opposition. Then, Hehir burst through the defensive line and found Blake Schafer in support for the Bluedog’s first try.
Blake Schafer was in again shortly after for the Bluedogs to lead 12 points to 6.
Tathra/Cobargo were being well served by Grant Moon and Morgan Boyle, who were proving difficult to contain. A further try to Tathra/Cobargo and it appeared the scores would be level at halftime, however, the conversion attempt went astray and the Bluedogs took a 12 points to 10 lead into the break.
The second half began much the same as the first. Tathra/Cobargo scored first for a 14 – 12 lead and appeared to be in the ascendency. However, the Bluedogs were determined not to let this game get away.
Corey Schafer directed play superbly and displayed great vision to switch play to the short side to set up a try to winger Jake Emerson. Once again the lead switched by 2 points, this time in the Bluedog’s favour.
Nathan Lygon for the Bluedogs was a tower of strength, leading by example and inspiring his team-mates. So too was Zach Mikula. His damaging running with the football set the platform for many of the Bluedogs attacking raids.
Clancy Mills and Jake Taylor pulled off some huge hits in defence, as did Jake Emerson, belying his small stature.
With the scoreline at 16-14 and just six minutes remaining on the clock, Tathra/Cobargo scored their fourth try and seemed certain to have wrapped up the game.
Corey Schafer then pulled off a game changing play. From the resulting kick-off he drilled the ball low and hard for a short kick which found touch and regained possession for the Bluedogs.
A period of sustained pressure on the oppositions’ tryline saw the Bluedogs able to open up an overlap on the right hand side. When Mikula’s pass found Baden Sinclair in open spaces, the Bluedogs were home and celebrations began. Corey Schafers conversion sealed a great 22 points to 18 win for the Doggies.
Others to shine for the Bluedogs, in what was a great team performance, were Ben Halfpenny, Ryan Becker and Mitch James. Aaron Proctor was superb when moved to Fullback. Kieran War-nock gave one of his best, disciplined, displays of the season.
Jackson Standen of Bombala has been a great acquisition to the team this year, his enthusiasm is infectious and the term “axeman” refers both to his ability with an axe and his defensive style.
Jesse Brown and Ben Claxton performed strongly, contributing to a great result for the team. Lindsay Maney didn’t see many opportunities on his wing but gave confidence to his team defensively, knowing he never lets them down.
During the Group 16 presentations after the match, Tathra/Cobargo’s Lachlan Carey was named Player of the Year. Corey Schafer was awarded Highest Point Scorer for the Year and Baden Sinclair was named winner of the Ian Hortan Memorial Medal as Best Player in the Grand Final. Well done to all.
Many of the victorious Under 18s will now move into the senior grades next season. Some have tasted grade football this year and all who did, proved they are up to the task. This bodes well for the Club, moving into the future.
The next event for the Bluedogs will be the Presentation Night to be held on October 27 at the Top Pub in Pambula. Tickets are $35 each for a two course dinner and entertainment. See Col Ryan for tickets.