KOOTINGAL Roosters looked like Group 4 Second Division premiership favourites, putting on their best first-half display yet before a spiteful and chaotic second half saw the side reduced to eight men and an eight- point try awarded before claiming a 24-20 win over Dungowan Cowboys at Kootingal Oval on Saturday.
At Werris Creek’s David Taylor Oval, the Werris Creek Magpies snared a 19-18 golden-point win when Stewart Porter kicked a 53m field goal in the first period of extra time against the Walcha Roos.
It was a mercurial effort from the 43-year-old club great who also kicked a match-winning field goal to win the 1997 Group 4 First Division grand final against Wee Waa at Wee Waa’s Cook Oval.
Reigning premiers Barraba also prevailed, with a 42-8 win over Manilla at Manilla Showground.
However a grand final-type atmosphere swept over Kootingal Oval to watch Saturday’s top of the table clash between the Roosters and Dungowan Cowboys, with the home side snatching a four-point victory in the final moments 24-20 after leading 18-nil at halftime.
The usually sharp Cowboys attack couldn’t penetrate the Roosters line despite a series of repeat sets and penalties.
The home side wrapped the first half up by defending its line for five minutes to keep a clean sheet, while crossing for three of its own.
The big home crowd could smell a victory before the game got turned on its head.
Dungowan dummy half Lochie Collins was spending some time in the bin early when Cowboys five-eighth Brock Morgan slid through for a try.
Kooty fullback Paul Ford and Cowboys utility Andrew Thomas were both binned following the try and the tension was palpable.
From the kick-off and three niggly tackles later, an all in brawl erupted, and kept erupting for a few minutes until the officials got it under control.
Both sides had another three players sent for 10.
The problem for Kooty was that both halves, the fullback and hooker were all on the sideline as scrums went to three a side.
“I was doing a lot of talking but mostly looking for a kicker to get us out of trouble,” Kootingal captain-coach Nathan Hamlin said.
The Cowboys took advantage of the space, with Josh Steele making it a six- point game 18-12.
Just as the binned players were pouring back onto the field, Morgan slid through again.
Morgan slotted the conversion to make it 18-all before the referee pointed to the spot soccer style for another kick from in front.
The penalty was allegedly from an Anthony Smith trip on the line that had the winger having an early shower as well.
The eight-point try put the visitors in front 20-18 with 10 to go.
One final Roosters charge put Kayden Saunders over for his second as the Roosters held on.
“It was one of our best first halves,” Hamlin said.
“But we let them get under our skin.
“We said we wouldn’t but there is only so much the boys can take.”
Cowboys coach Luke Taylor said that Dungowan didn’t deserve to win.
“I think we can take more out of that loss than we would have a win,” Taylor said.