BARRABA Bulldogs claimed back-to-back Wests Second Division Knockouts with a 22-20 win over Dungowan Cowboys at Scully Park in Tamworth yesterday.
They did it by striking early, leading 20-4 at one stage and then hanging against a gritty Cowboy comeback.
Barraba Bulldogs reclaimed the ball from the kick-off to have Dungowan Cowboys under pressure from the start of yesterday’s final.
A few tackles later and lanky fullback Kahlan Duncan crossed wide out for a 4-nil lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.
A Joey Latham 40-20 enabled the Bulldogs to take a tap 10m out and, while they might have lost their way in their first set of six, a jolting tackle from Shaun Spence on Clint Ridley regained the ball for the Bulldogs and a few tackles later Latham was able to crash his way across for a converted try and 10-nil lead.
Latham was heavily involved again, watching the spiralling bomb he kicked out of defence elude Ethan Sherlock and bounce many metres back into the waiting and onrushing arms of Duncan.
He fired it onto Luke White and the centre scored out wide, missing the conversion for a 14-nil lead.
Dungowan was then caught offside from the kick off but Barraba failed to find touch.
The Cowboys crashed their way back into the game when Clint Ridley dragged three defenders with him from close range and a 14-4 deficit.
However another Spence crunching tackle jolted the ball loose and, in the next set of six, White crossed for his second try to kick the goal and give the Bulldogs a 20-4 halftime lead.
The Cowboys gave themselves a glimmer after some pressure enabled Shae Collins to crash over under the posts and Andrew Thomas to convert for a 20-10 score.
When Mitch Brown burst onto a fine Matt Wilson pass, they were back in it at 20-14 with 12 minutes left.
A Latham field goal attempt missed but, from the ensuing re-start, Matt Wilson went for touch instead of a tap restart only for the kick to sail out on the full.
White converted the penalty from in front for a 22-14 lead.
The game took another twist after Ben Tongue caught the Bulldog defence napping but the full time siren went as Barraba brought the ball back for a kickoff.
It was Barraba’s second successive Group 4 second Division Knockout win and the $2000 winner’s cheque comes in handy for the club.
They earned it too after a tough 12-8 semi-final win over Kootingal in the morning.
“It’s a big weekend,” Barraba captain-coach Tim Coombes said.
“Come the final everyone’s tired and the game’s a little scrappy.
“But the boys dug deeper.
“Dungowan were down on troops but we were missing a few as well.”
Coombes said his side’s good start was crucial, racking up 20 first-half points.
“Then that penalty at the end, and that’s what we won by,” he said.
Dungowan captain-coach Luke Taylor lamented some crippling injuries.
“Beau Ryan broke his arm yesterday and Will Gooch dislocated his shoulder,” Taylor said.
“Nathan Preston had to work today but gave us good minutes yesterday and Damien Pittman played with broken ribs today.
“Shae Collins also got busted by a cow Friday and played with busted ribs too.
“I’m proud of our boys, we had a lot of them push through (injury) to play.”