Kiwis almost squandered an opportunity to play in their first Tamworth men’s first grade grand final since 2012, but managed to scramble their way to a 7-5 preliminary final win on Sunday.
It took them 90 minutes though to wear South United down, with Souths scoring twice in the last 10 minutes of regular time to send the game into extra-time.
“We always do it the hard way,” Kiwis captain Josh Worpel remarked.
At 4-1 up at half-time they looked headed for a showdown with defending champions Services Workies.
But Souths staged a brilliant fightback to draw level at 5-all at full-time.
Jack Watson broke the deadlock with just under five minutes to go in the first half of extra-time after Souths were unable to control an overhead into the circle.
Souths suffered another blow not long after with Jarrod McCluand yellow-carded leaving them eight on nine until mid-way through the second half.
Just after his return Souths looked certain to score but Kiwis somehow managed to stop them. Nathan Czinner then deservedly sealed it for Kiwis with a powerful finish from a penalty corner with a minute on the clock.
“We were lucky,” Worpel conceded.
“I think we just switched off at 4-1.We thought it was all sweet. That obviously wasn’t the case.”
“They kept coming and coming.”
It was a see-sawing tussle.
The game was barely a minute old when Brock Mackay squeezed the ball past Kiwis keeper Martin Courtney from a corner variation to give Souths a 1-nil lead.
Kiwis hit straight back through a powerful flick from Mitch Burrows, the striker producing a brilliant finish on his backstick 30 seconds later to put Kiwis ahead.
Burrows doubled their advantage with just under eight to go with a deft flick into the top of the goal.
Worpel then made it 4-1 in the shades of half-time with a nice drag and turn, and finish from a corner.
But from the comfort of three goals they found themselves clinging to a one-goal lead, Souths pouncing on a man advantage and disrupted Kiwis defence with Alex Taggart picking up a yellow card, and slotting two quick goals.
Mackay netted the first, Will Turner then sliding in on his knees to put away a great cross from Neil Wood.
Craig Unger restored Kiwis two-goal advantage with just over 12 remaining but Souths weren’t done with yet, Turner scoring his second before combining with Harper Galvin to level at 5-all and set up an enthralling final five minutes.
Explaining the turnaround in the second half Souths coach Greg Scott said they “just had to figure some things out”.
“We were going too direct. It’s been our problem all year,” he said.
“We’ve got good targets in Will and Harper.”
They just needed to get people motion and around the ball.
“We got better when we started going through the midfield,” he said.
Worpel said losing Taggart hurt them. The two have been forming a good combination at the back and playing 70 minutes most games.
Taggart was one of their best. He got some crucial touches and provided a lot of forward drive.
“What we spoke about was getting the ball and going forward. Taggs was able to do that,” Worpel said.
His quick feeds to Czinner and Antony Doolan in the midfield generated some promising attacks for Kiwis.
The first time they have combined at centre-half, they were dominant through the middle.
“They just got 1000 times more touches on the ball than anyone else,” Worpel said.
Scott felt they probably could have won the game with a couple off good chances late and did make mention of keeper Toby Climpson. Until a couple of months ago he’d never played keeper.
“He made some great saves,” he said.