THE Eugowra Golden Eagles have won their place in the Woodbridge Cup grand final after a nail-biting 22-20 win over the Canowindra Tigers on Sunday.
The Eagles came from behind after the Tigers led 8-6 at half-time.
Before another bumper crowd that paid $5200 through the gate, both sides tore into each other from the opening whistle.
Play fluctuated from end to end with neither side gaining the ascendancy.
A Matt McClean penalty goal opened the scoring for the Tigers after 21 minutes.
But the two-point lead was short-lived when the Eagles rallied with a Jake Stenhouse try.
Todd Jayett’s conversion took the score to 6-2 before the Tigers enjoyed a large period of possession and regained the lead with just three minutes remaining in the first half. An Adam Micaleff try and McClean conversion gifted the Tigers an 8-6 lead after a hard-fought half.
With a grand final berth on the line, both sides were willing in an even final 40 minutes.
But it was Canowindra that started the better, throwing the ball around and threatening Eugowra’s line.
Halfback McClean eventually scored a good individual try from a short grubber kick that he regathered. He converted his own try to bump the Tigers’ advantage out to eight points with 30 minutes to go.
Six minutes later they suffered a big blow when replacement Rob Burn was sent off by referee Tim Bailey for dissent, leaving the Tigers with 12 men for the final 24 minutes of the game.
Initially, it didn’t appear to worry the Tigers.
McClean booted his side further ahead to 16-6 with 17 minutes remaining and a Cargo-Canowindra grand final appeared imminent.
But Eugowra rose to the challenge and started to apply pressure with attacking raids, the first resulting in a Pat Welsh try and Jayett conversion to edge the score to 16-12 with 15 minutes to play.
The Tigers extended their lead again to eight points with a Nick Wilson try, but Eugowra bridged that gap with a Luke Barnes try resulting in a 20-16 scoreline.
Just when it looked like the 12-man Tigers were going to hold on to win, Eugowra found another gear inside the final two minutes. The Golden Eagles co-captain-coaches combined to snatch a 22-20 victory after Luke Clarke crossed and Todd Jayett converted to hand Eugowra consecutive grand final appearances.
The Eagles now face Cargo Blue Heelers in a repeat of last year’s grand final next Sunday in Grenfell.
In youth league minor premiers Peak Hill Roosters hit back with a big 38-12 win over Canowindra Tigers to earn a rematch with Grenfell Goannas in the grand final.
League tag produced an even game with the Eugowra Eaglets 12-0 winners over the Canowindra Tigresses.
l Peak Hill halfback and captain Jason Boney, the competition’s top point scorer, won the Alex Armstrong Best and Fairest Medal for player of the year at the Woodbridge Cup presentation night at Canowindra Services Club last Friday.
Youth league’s player of the year prize went to Michael Miller (Grenfell Goannas).
Taylor Press was league tag’s best and fairest and top point scorer.
Coach of the year was Dean Sanford (Canowindra Tigers) and referee of the year was Tim Bailey.