By Casey O'Connor
Honours went to the Warwick Cowboys in the qualifying final of the TRL premiership race. They are now just one win away from a place in the grand final and realising their goal of winning the A Grade premiership for the first time since 1988. In a game filled with highlights it was the outstanding defence of the Cowboys against the relentless attack of Wattles that helped them take the next step towards the grand final
The Cowboys came out of the sheds all guns blazing and on a mission. They were lucky that early ball handling errors did not prove costly and on the back of some Coedie Tandy skill, a chip chick close to the line landed with Mitch Watson who was able to ground the ball for the first points of the game.
Warwick failed to complete the set of six following the kick off. It allowed Wattles the perfect opportunity to level the scores when Matt Duggan spun the ball out to Nick van der Poel who skipped around his opposite number to score. Matt Duggan added the extras to give Wattles a 6-4 lead and it was game on in earnest.
Tough defence forced errors from both sides as they failed to complete their sets. The dead lock was broken when Coedie Tandy again involved himself in the play. A cross field kick was kicked on by Matthew Mathew Marshall and scooped up on the bounce by Zach Koitka who dived over and give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead. That was extended to 12-6 with the successful conversion by Matt Marshall. When the siren sounded the Cowboys retained that 12-6 lead.
Wattles returned to the field with an air of determination as the second half got underway. The Wattles attack was fierce but the Cowboys defence proved up to the challenge. A Duggan off load allowed Ty Gardner to level the scores.
The Cowboys clawed their way back to the lead after Tandy involved himself again. A beautiful offload allowed Cody Byrne to score and extend the lead.
Tensions on the field spilled over and Wattles forward Gaulton was marched for striking Ben Sullivan. Cowboys, Simona Vavega also felt the wrath of the ref and was marched for joining the fun.
As the clock wound down, the more handling errors cost the Cowboys the chance to put the Warriors to the sword. They were forced to defend back to back sets as Wattles threw everything at them. Although the Cowboys put themselves under pressure their scrambling defence close to the line was one of the highlights of the game.
Matthew Marshall eventually got his chance for the Cowboys and scored to give his side a ten-point buffer, Josh Koitka then put the game beyond Wattles’ reach when he scored his second for the afternoon and setting up a clash between the Cowboys and Minor Premiers Valleys in the Major Semi final at Clive Berghofer Oval on Sunday.
Despite the loss Wattles live to fight another day. After an outstanding season their good form looks to have deserted them when it matters most. They will be looking for an improved performance when they meet Dalby. It is sudden death elimination – put simply to keep their hopes of a grand final appearance alive they simply must win.
WARWICK 26 (Zach Koitka 2, Mitch Watson, Jarred Bradfield, Cody Byrne, Mathew Marshall tries; Marshall goal) defeated WATTLES 12 (Nick van der Poel, Ty Gardner tries; Matt Duggan 2 goals)
TOOWOOMBA RUGBY LEAGUE
SEMI-FINALS SUPER SUNDAY August 25
Clive Berghofer Stadium
10 AM Under 18 – Gatton v Highfields
11:30 am Under 18 – Souths v Dalby
1pm Reserve Grade – Goondiwindi v Wattles
2:30 pm Reserve Grade – Valleys v Gatton
4pm First Grade – Wattles v Dalby
5:30 pm First Grade – Valleys v Warwick
Saturday –Newtown v Gatton
3.40PM Gold Park
Stanthorpe v Goondiwindi
2.00PM Sullivan Oval