JEREMY York put on some good footwork and then showed the Boggabri defence a clean set of heels to break a second-half deadlock and score the winning try with only seconds left on the clock in a tense Second Division preliminary final on Saturday at Kootingal.
The game had been locked at 16-16 for a good portion of the second half, the centre’s late but great effort making the final score 22-16 to give Kooty another shot at the title and another shot at the team that beat them in the major semi-final, Werris Creek.
The Roos, who started slowly against Dungowan in their home minor semi-final, didn’t make the same mistake twice, jumping out of the gates to take early control of the match.
Heath McIlveen produced a bone-rattling hit to force a turnover in the first set before his prop partner Jay Urquhart did the same thing on the first tackle of the next defensive set.
The Roos had all the ball but didn’t quite have the key to unlocking an improved Kooty defensive effort this week.
Dan Sullivan had the best chance to open the scoring but dropped the ball cold on the line.
Boggabri hooker Brad Harris didn’ t make the same mistake, scooting behind a slow marker to scramble over the line from the ruck and take first points after 20 minutes.
The Roos took the momentum and were pressing Kootingal’s line hard but, again, couldn’t execute, not taking a fifth tackle kick option four times in the opening half to be caught with the ball and waste an opportunity at getting a repeat set or contesting a kick.
Matt McCulloch brought some much -needed urgency to the Roosters’ play when he came on for a stint at hooker.
McCulloch was providing quick ball and had the Roos going backwards when he put skipper Andrew Moodie in some space to put Ryan Martin over.
Martin and Moodie would combine in the second half to score a carbon copy of that try to tie the game up.
It was McCulloch again who sparked a critical try before halftime when he broke out for a searching run down the middle and, shortly after, Thomas Mitchell burrowed his way over the line for the Roosters to go into the break up 12-6.
Following the break, Boggabri again took the momentum, scoring the next two through a crushing Bob Jones run, before Boyd Campbell took the lead back, reaching a long arm over the line.
The two sides went end to end for the next ten minutes, both defences holding out until, with 13 minutes to go, Martin dived over in the corner for his second, just missing the conversion leave the score at 16-16.
A very nervous ten minutes of play had the crowd on the edge of their seats as both sides took turns pressing the other on the back of mistakes going both directions.
With 90 seconds left on the clock, York broke a tackle and then scooted his way past another would-be tackler before turning the gas on to race away and score under the posts as the home crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Coach Nathan Hamlin also breathed a sigh of relief after the tense encounter.
“We talked about playing with heart this week and showed that,” Hamlin said.
“It was a real team effort in a very tough game and that is what you want in finals.
“Hats off to Boggy as well.
“They have been really good this year.”
The Roosters will have two sides in the final next weekend, with the ladies set to face Uralla in the tag after the Tigers also scored in the dying seconds to beat Walcha 10-9.
Men: KOOTINGAL 22 (Ryan Martin 2, Mitchell, York tries, Ryan Martin 3gls) d BOGGABRI 16 (B Harris, B Campbell, Jones tries, J Campbell 2gls)