Under 18s keep finals hopes alive

Ismail Hudson contests a line out.

Ismail Hudson contests a line out.

THE Monaro Freight Under 18's returned from a three week break needing to win all 4 remaining games to secure a place in the finals. Their first hurdle was an away game against Daramalan. The Red Devils thrashed Daramalan 50-15 in Cooma in round 4 but at home Daramalan is a very different proposition. As expected a much stronger Daramalan team took the field and the opening exchanges were very willing indeed. The Red Devils stuck to their game plan and remained composed as the game swept from end to end. Winger Jakob Stewart was unlucky not to score two times in the opening 10 minutes as he chased down Matt Cusbert's kicks only to be denied by a wicked bounce and a dubious knock-on call. Meanwhile the re-arranged forward pack was taking control of the midfield and scrum-half Aaron Stewart was skillfully directing play. Cooma's dominance was not being reflected on the scoreboard as Daramalan desperately defended their line. Matt Cusbert, standing in for injured captain Daniel Robinson, led from the front. He took a tap close the Daramalan line and charged at the defence. The other forwards drove in behind Matt and pushed him over the line for Cooma's opening try. Aaron Stewart converted and Cooma led 7-0. Shortly before halftime Aaron Stewart kicked a penalty goal to extend the lead to 10-0.

Cooma's control and composure in the second half was rewarded with 4 tries. Dylan Wilson, returning from a broken wrist, intercepted a pass and used his remarkable speed to score under the posts. Aaron Stewart converted and the Red Devils led 17-0. Jakob Stewart got the try that eluded him in the first half when he ran on to a perfect cut out pass from Matt Cusbert to score out wide. His brother Aaron kicked the conversion and the score of 24-7 now reflected Cooma's superiority. Dylan Wilson then skirted around the defence and ran 40 metres to score his second try. The conversion was unsuccessful and Cooma led 29-7. Cooma's last try was scored out wide by Tyran Murphy. Daramalan scored a converted try on fulltime for a final score of Cooma 34 Daramalan 14.

Cooma's win was a true team effort. Jackson Reed, Brendan McCole, Ismail Hudson, Jake McIlvenny and Dom Giagios worked tirelessly. Ned McDonnell was a handful in attack and punishing in defence. Lindsey Browne replaced the hard working Joe Altmann in the second half and continues to impress with his efforts in the second row. Aaron Stewart and Josh McDonald combined well in the halves and created opportunities for centres Dylan Wilson and Rob Hayward. It was great to see Rob back on the field after missing 5 games due to a knee injury. Wingers Tyran Murphy and Jakob Stewart along with fullback Ben Turner-Mann were outstanding. Their hard running kick returns were matched by their fantastic cover defence which denied Daramalan on several occasions. Matt Cusbert played a great captains game scoring the first try, saving a try with a brilliant tackle, communicating well with the referee and keeping the team focused on the job at hand. In a difficult game to choose Best and Fairest players the points were awarded to Dylan Wilson (3), Aaron Stewart (2) and Tyran Murphy (1). Players' Player honours were shared by Josh McDonald and Jackson Reed.

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