The Wallamba Bulls hosted the Manning River Ratz at Aub Ferris Oval in Nabiac with both teams vying for a berth in the 2018 rugby union grand final, to be played at Dolphin Park in Tuncurry on Saturday, September 22.
In unseasonably warm conditions, the temperature nudged over 30 degrees as the crowds gathered to cheer on their respective teams.
Spotted amongst the crowd were several of the Forster Tuncurry men’s team and the Gloucester Cockies women’s sevens, who secured a place in the grand final last weekend and took advantage of the bye to check out the competition they will face next weekend.
The Bulls took on the Ratz in the women’s competition, where the fast and furious form of the game was a challenge for all players in the stifling heat.
The Bulls were able to move the ball out to their versatile number 7 Chantelle Guihot who took off at pace for the opening try of the game.
An unsuccessful conversion had the Bulls leading 5 – 0.
Not to be outdone, the Ratz quickly regrouped and crossed for a converted try to take the lead 5 – 7.
As the clock quickly wound down to half time, the Bulls were again able to get the ball out to Chantelle Guihot who took off like a startled rabbit to cross for the Bulls second unconverted try.
At half time the Bulls led 10 – 7.
A quick turnaround at half time saw the Ratz reinvigorated and determined to continue their season all the way to the grand final.
Their dream was only five minutes from reality when the Ratz crossed for their second try to lead 10 – 12.
The scoreline read like a red rag to a bull and the Bulls took it literally, attacking the Ratz’ defensive line over and over.
The Ratz held strong, holding the Bulls out until the last two minutes of the game before Lalirra Simon broke through for a try that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
A successful conversion saw the Bulls through to the grand final next Saturday against the Gloucester Cockies.
The inaugural women’s sevens LMNC grand final between Wallamba and Gloucester will kick off at 2.15pm at Dolphin Park in Tuncurry.
The men’s final between Wallamba and Manning River kicked off at 3pm and both teams were determined to see their way through to the grand final and showed just how evenly matched they were as they held each other scoreless for 15 minutes.
Then, a penalty to the Bulls allowed the boot of kicker, Steven (Shorty) Curnow to kick a successful penalty goal to take the lead 3 – 0.
The Ratz regrouped and immediately attacked the Bulls defensive line in some of the best rugby we have seen all season, both teams worked hard, using the entire width of the field.
Persistence paid off for the Ratz when they crossed for an unconverted try to take the lead 3 – 5.
Bulls coach Lee Sullivan took advantage of the depth of the Bulls bench to rest key players as the afternoon heat took its toll and with five minutes to half time, the strategy delivered when the Bulls crossed for their first try of the afternoon.
A quick turnaround and the dogged attack of the Bulls forward pack saw the Bulls seize the opportunity and as the crowd roared, the Bulls headed into half time, leading the Ratz 17-5.
Both coaches impressed on the players the significance of the next 40 minutes, and as the teams returned to the paddock it clear that both teams were determined to make these 40 minutes count.
The Bulls quickly took the upper hand and spread their margin to 24 – 5 but then the Ratz seemed to find a whole new gear taking advantage of the tiring Bulls line to cross for two converted tries to come within one try of upsetting the hopes and dreams of the Bulls.
Try as they might, the Bulls were unable to add to the scoreline, despite a brilliant run for Nathan Ford, a relative newcomer to the game, having the crowd on their feet, the Ratz defence was the strongest it had been all season.
As the players struggled through the heat, in what had become a marathon game as players fell to injury, the clock counted down to the grand final destiny of one team and as referee Andy Marshall blew the whistle, the Bulls crowd erupted at the 24 – 19 victory.
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