GUNNEDAH Bulldogs came from fourth to upset North Tamworth Bears and win Sunday’s Group 4 Under 18 grand final 26-12.
The Bears looked to have the game under control when they led 6-nil in the first half following a well-worked backline try to Trent Eather.
However, Gunnedah worked its way back into the game and, when man of the match Sam Douglas was able to slip a pass to Jordan Travers, the talented fullback – despite being mugged by three Bears – was able to beat three or four defenders and race away for a try under the posts.
Winger Adam Curgenven was over in the corner too before halftime but called back for a forward pass and awarded a penalty because the Bears were also offside.
Douglas then crossed early in the second half as the Bulldogs took over.
When DJ Smith produced a jinking run across the ground to beat half a dozen defenders the move looked like it had stopped.
However he also offloaded to Chris Rollinson, who then went on his own run, beating three or four defenders.
When pulled down 10m short of the line, he wasn’t held and he regained his feet to dive over and make it 16-6.
When Brad Johnston crashed over beside the posts, North was roaring back at 16-12 and, when Bulldogs backrower Blake McIlveen was sinbinned, it looked like being a tough task to hang on.
However they managed to hold up North fullback Zack Leonard over the line and then centre James Mapperson scored the first of his two late tries.
The second was a cracker after a Douglas break and Smith kick ahead.
There were plenty of good performers from both sides with Tyler Harris, Johnston, Matt Burling and Ryan Horton impressing for Norths.
None were better than Douglas and fellow backrowers Blake McIlveen and Tyler Fleming for Gunnedah.
Travers was dangerous throughout while halfback Tyrel Kruse and Mapperson also shone.
Gunnedah coach Wayne Griffiths was delighted.
“They did it the tough way – came from fourth,” Griffiths said.
“They aren’t a big side but are very mobile.
“The defensive part of their game was fantastic.”
He said the 10-minute period with Blake McIlveen in the sin bin was crucial.
“We didn’t let them score,” Griffiths said.
“That’s when the game could have been won and lost.”
He thought all the squad contributed.
“Everyone did their bit,” he said.
He retains around a dozen for next year as well.
Group 4 Under 18 Grand Final: GUNNEDAH 26 (James Mapperson 2, Jordan Travers, Sam Douglas, Chris Rollinson tries, Rollinson 2, DJ Smith gls) d NORTH TAMWORTH 12 (Trent Eather, Brad Johnston tries, Tyler Harris 2gls) MOM: Sam Douglas (G)