DUNGOWAN Cowboys overcame a first half case of the jitters to knock Bendemeer out of the Group 4 Second Division premiership with a 30-10 Elimination Final win in at Dungowan Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Cowboys now play Kootingal Roosters in this Saturday’s Minor Semi Final at Kootingal Oval after the Roosters lost their qualifying final to Quirindi Grasshoppers 30-24 at Quirindi Sportsground.
The Grasshoppers now play minor premiers Barraba Bulldogs at Barraba in this Saturday’s Major Semi Final.
The return of lock Josh Crittenden was a bonus for the Grasshoppers as they overcame the Roosters in a tough game that looked like it might be headed for golden point extra time at one stage.
Hooker Matt McCulloch was in outstanding form again for the Grasshoppers.
He engineered two blindside tries that proved vital and was clever around the ruck.
Prop Damian Allan and Nick O’Leary also made plenty of inroads and winger Brad Vidler was in good form, crossing for two tries.
Young Jordan Sharpe was one of Kootingal’s best at fullback, his kicking game providing the Roosters with good field position.
Five-eighth Amos Ioasa was also a threat while Andrew Loveday made some good busts in the centres.
The Roosters now host a Dungowan Cowboys who were less than impressive in an error-strewn first half.
The Cowboys dropped the ball in their first tackle of the game and again on the third tackle of their second set.
Despite their poor completion rate they led 12-4 at halftime through tries to Gavin White and captain-coach Luke Taylor.
A much better second half had them leading 18-4 after Ben Tongue crashed over against the posts before halfback, Joe Wilson, engineered a brilliant try for Josh Steel.
Wilson chipped and re-gathered in the 23rd minute and then flicked a one handed pass to centre Steel for him to dive over.
Bendemeer fullbackMichael Porter arrived too late and was penalised and sin-binned for his late tackle.
Down 24-4 the Mountain Men then played their best football of the game with 12 men.
From the kick-off they re-gathered and almost scored through five-eighth Harlee Milgate.
Then Jay Chatfield, their best player, surged across the line with two or three defenders clinging to the big second rower.
However the Cowboys weathered the late Bendy charge and then sealed the match when Tom Borger ran on to a good wide pass to score out wide for a 30-10 win.
“We had our chances,” Bendemeer coach Peter Cook said.
“Young Harlee played well. Jay Chatfield played well. Reuben Monika also had a good game, never stopped. But they were too good. We’ll just regroup and have another crack next year. We did pretty well for a side that wasn’t supposed to make the semis.”
Dungowan captain-coach Luke Taylor was disappointed with his side’s handling but elated by its defence.
“We turned over a lot of ball, exactly what we didn’t want to do,” Taylor said.
“We had to defend well and did. They have some good players who can score points but we kept them pretty quiet. We scrambled well.”
Bendemeer second rower Jay Chatfield had a big game for the Mountain Men, popping some great passes, one of which led to the side’s first try.
Props Rodney Rolls and Nathan Flynn also worked hard all game, Rolls also slipping some neat passes.
Centre Reuben Monika worked enormously hard in attack and defence as well.
Dungowan had no standouts, there were plenty of mistakes and plenty of tackles.
Shae Collins was close to their best with a big workload in defence including a couple of big hits.
Tom Borger and Ashley Swan also came off the bench to provide the Cowboys with some attacking spark.