It was tipped to be a thrilling finish to end the New England Rugby Union season and it lived up to the hype.
St Albert’s College and Tamworth Rugby Club were vying for the last spot in the semi-finals with their matches against the Barbarians and the Armidale Blues.
Tamworth needed to win and were hoping for an Albies loss to claim their spot but the students snuck home against the Barbarians 31-22 to finish in fourth.
“I would say we were very lucky to get away with a win,” Albies coach Jas Lincoln said.
“We knew that the game meant a lot more to us than it did to Baa Baas.
“The Baa Baas still played incredibly well and we just happened to have good fortune at key moments in the game.”
In the lead-up to the game, Lincoln highlighted the Barbarians big forward pack and said his team would have to muscle up and match it with them, as well as improve their defence.
He was impressed with their efforts in both departments on Saturday.
“Was pretty happy with the way we performed in the forwards,” Lincoln said.
“We knew that they had a big pack and that they would be dominant near the ruck and also in the set piece so we have to do a lot of work there to try and match them.
“We were pretty happy with the fact we were able to put a number of phases together and I also felt our defence improved enormously, which it needed to.”
This Sunday will see the two sides collide at the Barbarians’ Alcatraz for the minor semi-final.
Lincoln said his team will have to improve again if they wish to progress into the second week of finals.
“I think Barbarians would have learned a lot from our game on Saturday and will come back as a very different team this weekend,” he said.
“I know they had a few players out as well that they will be looking forward to getting back so we know it is going to be a much bigger step up for us this weekend.
“Alcatraz is a fantastic facility and I know Baa Baas have put a lot of money and time into that facility but it is one that you don't look forward to going to because there is definitely a home ground advantage there.”
In the final round’s other first grade match, Tamworth finished their first year in the New England competition on a positive note with a tight, 22-21 win over the first-placed minor premiers Armidale Blues.