THE Mainstreet U13 Red Devils were up against the Uni-Norths Owls in semi-final rugby at Gowrie on Saturday. It was great to have the U15's at the same ground able to cheer the team on, along with a good contingent of parents and supporters. The team all wore black armbands in memory of Graham Dobbie.
In fine and warm conditions, things were looking tough for Cooma from the kick-off. Regular prop Nic Coote had to withdraw from the finals to travel overseas, so a smaller than usual front row took to the field for the sudden-death match. It seemed as though someone had coated the ball with grease, as every time Cooma had possession, the ball would be dropped and turned over to the Owls. They soon were within striking distance of the Red Devils line, and scored a comfortable try, it was not converted. The bad case of 'dropsies' continued on after the restart, and with some really silly penalties being given away for high tackles, Uni-Norths were looking to be in control. A solid scrum win saw Bailey Rogers sprint away from the defence to score under the posts, leaving himself an easy conversion. This pattern of play continued on for most of the first half, with our forwards winning heaps of scrum and lineout ball, but letting the ball fall back into the talons of the Owls (sorry about that) on a regular basis, with poor ball security in ruck situations. Despite this, the Red defence remained solid and would not allow the line to be crossed again. Not long before half-time, a good backline move saw Colby Evans split the defence with a great straight run, his unconverted try leaving Cooma 12, Uni-Norths 5 at the break.
Going to the break with this lead after a pretty scrappy half gave the team and coaching staff plenty of confidence that things would improve in the second stanza. This proved to be the case fairly quickly, with the Cooma scrum becoming dominant and winning a couple against the Owls feed. The long-striding Rhys Sopniewski soon found his way over the line for a five-pointer, a fitting reward for constantly bringing the ball to the line of defence and gaining metres easily. With their feathers well and truly ruffled, the Owls were soon on the attack again. The ref was dishing out plenty of penalties against Cooma, mainly for tackling and ruck infringements, but all were well and truly deserved. When it appeared they must score another try, Bailey had ripped the ball away from them and sprinted almost the length of the field to touchdown again, putting Cooma up by 26-5. Unable to bounce back from there, the Owls tacklers lost some energy, and the Cooma boys were finding plenty of holes. Bailey broke through again and beat lots of tackles before seeing his pass to Russ Haylock float forward with the line open. The forwards had found a way to hang on to the ball and were making good gains through the middle, and every one of the backs had made some good metres with the ball in hand. A final try to Bailey and goal kicked by Will Cahill posted the score of 33-5.
A big wrap to the forwards for sorting out a few handling problems, and coping in Nic's absence; he has been a huge asset to the team this year with improved fitness and dedication. The Hudson boys were busy all day, Justin and Darius are really firing in the second row, Zac and Aramis handled their bigger opponents well, Jacob is enjoying flanking, and Rhys just keeps doing the good stuff every game from No. 8. Bailey and Harry served up lots of good ball to the backline, and all the boys along the line contributed towards the win. Centres Will and Toby fed the outer backs well, Colby making some good straight runs, and the trio of Russ, Tristan and Luke all did their share of tackling and running the ball up again.
The Grand Final is next week, and the team would like to see as many supporters as possible come to cheer them on. Last week's training was one of the best sessions of the year, so please be there on Wed. afternoon to iron out a few minor problems. Tackle low and ruck hard!! Good luck.