Wrecking ball No. 8 Phillip Lindsay forced his way over for the match winner as West Barbarians broke a 12-year premiership drought in the Rugby Bundaberg Elders Insurance Spring Cup Grand Final at the Waves Sports Complex on Saturday night.
The Barbarians snatched a 27-25 victory from the jaws of defeat against two-time defending champions Fraser Coast Mariners in a close match.
The Mariners had led 15-12 early but were forced to come from behind after back-to-back tries to Barbarians super substitutes George Fellows and Pita Halafoou-Loketi.
But flashy Scrum-half Delai Moto delivered with his second try and prolific scoring Fly-half Filipe Koroibola, who had scored their second try, converted for scores to be locked together at 22-all after 80 minutes.
In the first of about five minutes of added time, Mariners received a full-arm penalty and Filipe kicked truly for his second penalty goal for a three-point lead.
Barbarians first-season coach Gary Maroney said with time running out, they needed something special, and his players responded.
“We kicked off again and somehow we got the ball back and kept rolling forward and deep into extra-time, big Phil scored in the corner right at the death – we missed the conversion, then the referee blew full-time – it was an absolute miracle – not a single person left ground because it was that good a game,” Gary said.
The team was brilliantly led by captain and barnstorming Second Rower Saul Clough, who was their Best and Fairest and one of their few survivors from their 2020 season, which ended in a shock semi-final defeat at the hands of Turtles Brothers.
Another key member of that team of 12 months ago, Fly-half Andrew Filo, who scored their first 12 points with four penalties, was their Man of the Match ahead of uncompromising Tight-head Prop Bruce Ikamanu and Gary’s son and live-wire Scrum-half Joshua.
“Andrew was a standout for the award – he was just outstanding with his goalkicking, touch-finders, all-round kicking game and in general play – he was just brilliant,” Gary said.
Tongan Bruce Ikamanu, one of their many Pacific Islander players, also capped a magnificent season, along with super imposing Loose-head Prop Aloisia Sebualala.
“Our forward pack is about 80% Tongan and 20% Fijian – they are FIFO farm contract workers in the agriculture business, and it is just great to have them – they add so much flair and rugby smarts,” Gary said.
Phillip, Bruce, rugged substitute and club stalwart Matthew Evans, Hooker Paula Toa Tuivailala and club president and team manager Adam Hides all played integral roles in the South Kolan Sharks team which Andrew Filo captain/coached to an unbeaten Northern Districts Rugby League (NDRL) Premiership in August.
Andrew was delighted to play his part on the field this time after missing that grand final as he was in COVID-19 lockdown until 4pm that day after having visited what was later declared as a COVID-19 hotspot a week earlier.
Three Barbarians were also part of the Gin Gin team which lost the NDRL decider, rock-solid fullback Mathew Collier, who was an unsung hero throughout the season, speed machine Right Winger Maka Taliauli and crafty Blindside Flanker Tali Folau Sitani.
Gary was proud to share his first premiership as a coach with his son after previously losing two grand finals with Isis Crushers and East Bundaberg Pythons.
“Maybe it was third time lucky, but the boys worked hard all season and deserved it,” he said.
They lost two of their first four games by just eight and five points respectively but went through the second half of the season unbeaten, including an 18-all draw with Mariners in the penultimate round.
Over the course of the season, in a galaxy of stars, Gary said that Bruce Ikamanu was their “best by far”.
“Just his (Bruce’s) work-rate in defence is excellent at Tighthead and in open play he is just a creator – he is any coach’s dream player, especially in defence around the scrum is pivotal, and in line-outs and in open play, he is just a devastating ball player who can off-load in tackles, but all season, his defensive work was what impressed me most – he has a beautiful tactic of tackling,” Gary said.
Two-time bridesmaids Headlands Pies finally made it to the altar with 17-year-old opener Dylan Heycox leading them to a six-wicket victory over Takalvans Taipans in the Aussie Big Bash Final at Salter Oval on Saturday night with an unbeaten 33.
The match completed the competition’s fourth season and captain Simon Kelly, who is one of two franchise foundation players in the side, along with Chris Duff, said it was sweet to finally deliver the title for franchise owner, major sponsor and passionate supporter Bill Moorhead, especially after having to wait on the result of Friday night’s last-round clash between defending champions Searle’s RV Centre Vikings and Betta Heat to see if they would qualify for the decider.
In a season in which five of the 12 rounds were abandoned, mostly due to heavy rain, Takalvans Taipans played one more game than the Pies and Vikings, and they secured the minor premiership with a penultimate round victory over Headlands.
That result left the Pies vulnerable, as the Vikings could have leapfrogged them into second position with a huge victory over the win-less Betta Heat in the last round on Friday night, but while Searle’s scored a crushing 50-run victory in that game to join the Pies on seven points, it was not enough to overtake the Pies’ Net Run Rate of 0.6989, finishing on 0.2763.
The Pies were confirmed as a finalist against 2018/19 beaten finalists and 2019/20 champions Takalvans Taipans.
They were always in control after 36-year-old quick Paul Jagger bowled opener Arden Lankowski for a duck on the fifth ball of the innings.
Fellow pace spearhead Jeremy Haaksma claimed the next two wickets to fall, including the prized scalp of captain Dale Steele for just three, finishing with 2-14.
Seamer Andy Porter also chipped in with a wicket and while Eric Petersen and Sam Pearson added some substance to the innings with 36 and 24 respectively, both fell to another seamer Hayden Pope (2-30) and a total of 8-117 after opting to bat was below par.
With the bat, South Queensland Country Open representative opener Brendan Handley then gave the Pies a perfect launching pad with 36 from just 24 balls.
When Chris Duff followed for only one the Taipans got a sniff, but Dylan Heycox ultimately led them home after playing the support role in valuable partnerships of 34 with Hayden Pope, who struck 18 at a run a ball and 24 with his skipper who hit 11 before being bowled by Dylan’s younger brother Lachlan.
Andy Porter came in and scored an unbeaten seven from four balls but fittingly Dylan brought up victory with his second four with seven balls to go after having also plundered one six.
In-form paceman Mitch Waters was the Taipans’ only multi-wicket taker with 2-18 but they simply did not have enough runs to defend.
Simon Kelly, the oldest player in the side at the age of 37, admitted he had some “very nervous moments” as Friday’s Vikings-Heat game played out, but once they were confirmed as finalists all his players were very focused on claiming their Holy Grail.
“I was following that game on Mycricket, and Vikings were thrashing them and were obviously going to really boost their Net Run Rate, and we didn’t know until the end what the situation was and it was a relief to hold on to the second spot, and in the final we played the perfect game,” Simon said.
“Obviously after losing two finals in a row, to win the third one was great – we worked hard this season to be better in the field, we were finely tuned and it was good to win one.”
Dylan took out the Player of the Final, while Hayden Pope picked up two of the other major awards, the Player of the Series and Most Wickets with 11.
“To get Arden Lankowski out in the first over was the start we wanted and it was all positive from there – Eric Petersen and Sam Pearson put them back in the game with a good partnership, but our bowlers stuck to it,” Simon said.
“With the bat Brendan Handley really set the scene for us in our first eight overs and we weren’t going to lose from where he put us, then Dylan was very solid and to hit the winning runs was fitting.
“But everyone really chipped in – Jeremy Haaksma was sharp and he bowled his best four overs ever and Hayden Pope, Chris Duff, Paul Jagger and Andy Porter are always tight.
“It was also very deserving for Hayden to get Player of the Series – he was solid in both departments with bat and ball all season, what he has done with the ball surprised me a bit but he just did the job week-in-week-out.”
Heat veteran Scott Irwin picked up the silverware for Most Runs with 153, with Vikings’ Ned Jenner snaring the Young Gun of the Year.
The Pies also dominated the Team of the Tournament with five players included – Hayden Pope, Dylan Heycox, Brendan Handley, Chris Duff and Paul Jagger – with just two Taipans – Mitch Waters and Arden Lankowski – four from Vikings – Nathan Van Eekeren, Lennon Childs, Trent Seeds and Josh Winen – and only one from Heat, Scott Irwin.
The “Spoon Final” was the curtain-raiser to the big match and Betta Heat salvaged some pride in it by recording their only win of the season, cruising to a nine-wicket victory over the Vikings with two overs to spare with opener Kyle Stallan carrying his bat for an unbeaten 64 from just 54 balls.
Here are the scores:
CRICKET BUNDABERG AUSSIE BUNDY BIG BASH
Round 12: SEARLE’S RV CENTRE VIKINGS 8-157 (cc) (Josh Winen 50, Adam Pozzebon 23, Trent Seeds 21, Ned Jenner 20no, Matt Pozzebon 4-0-17-3, Dean Krebs 4-0-15-2, Lachlan Modrow 4-0-37-2) d BETTA HEAT 8-107 (cc) (Matt Pozzebon 23, Jackson Rehbein 20no, Nathan Van Eekeren 4-0-17-3, Matt Parker 2-0-22-2).
Spoon Final: BETTA HEAT 1-137 (Kyle Stallan 64no, Scott Irwin 43) d SEARLE’S RV CENTRE VIKINGS 136 (Jesse Richardson 49, Adam Pozzebon 26, Matt Pozzebon 4-0-24-3, Jason Reepsdorff 4-0-20-2).
Final: HEADLANDS PIES 4-120 (Brendan Handley 36, Dylan Heycox 33no, Mitchell Waters 4-0-18-2) d TAKALVANS TAIPANS 8-117 (cc) (Eric Petersen 36, Sam Pearson 24, Jeremy Haaksma 4-1-14-2, Hayden Pope 4-0-30-2).
RUGBY BUNDABERG ELDERS INSURANCE SPRING CUP
Grand final: WEST BARBARIANS 27 (George Fellows, Pita Halafoou-Loketi, Phillip Lindsay tries; Andrew Filo 4 penalties) d FRASER COAST MARINERS 25 (Delai Moto 2 tries; Filipe Koroibola try, 2 conversions, 2 penalties).
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