THE MILTON-ULLADULLA Bulldogs showed they should not be written off in this year’s VB South Coast Group 7 Rugby League finals series when the downed minor premiers Warilla -Lake South Gorillas at Bill Andriske Mollymook Oval in yesterday’s final round.
In a thrilling encounter the Bulldogs took the win 22-14 to sound an ominous warning to their fellow finalists.
Despite the loss, the Gorillas still finished on top of the ladder in equal first with Gerringong and Albion Park-Oak Flats, but took the top place on for and against.
They will now have the weekend off as Jamberoo and Milton do battle in the elimination semi-final at Jamberoo on Saturday and the Lions and Eagles face off in the qualifying semi at Gerringong on Sunday.
In a great contest the lead changing three times, the Gorillas raced to the front when lively second rower Luke Roberts crashed over at the seventh minute after half-back Luke Watts found a bit of extra room to send play deep into the Bulldog territory with a cutting run.
At the 14th minute, a sensational sharp burst from Bulldog half Geoff Johnson led to custodian Tommy Cook linking into the backline and with the Gorilla three-quarters hanging off him, Cook simply stretched the defence wide to race over to lock the scores 4-all.
Once the Dogs mounted their kill they couldn’t be pulled off as the Gorillas found out four minutes later when champion rake Adam Stone put his ears back and raced away on a 30 metre lone run to crash over.
Goal-kicking centre Adam Bliss added the extra to give the home side a narrow 10-4 lead before the gutsy Gorillas answered two minutes later when Roberts once again crossed after pivot Lazarevski and Watts combined to show their skills for the Dogs to lead 10-8 at half-time.
The second stanza was simply terrific.
The minor premiers returned fire straight after the interval when fullback Craig Nolan was dispatched by the menacing Watts before Lazarevski finally converted to send the Gorillas into the lead 14-10.
As both sides parried and fenced, the last eight minutes were riveting as both sides attempted to out-fox each other, when out of the blue the Gorillas lost possession and from an ensuing penalty, Bulldog half Johnson figured strongly that resulted in man of the match Chad Burcher thundering over at the 72nd minute to give Bliss the extra and the Dogs to regather the lead 16-14.
In one of the best displays of this season, the Gorillas were always in the match and the slightest mistake by the gallant Dogs would have been fatal, however the Dogs were in a rigorous mood and after another lightning burst from dummy-half by the redoubtable Stone the Gorillas were at sixes and sevens when Johnson, at full speed, loomed-up in support at the 79th minute to score the runaway try as Bliss finished the scoring at 22-14.
It was a heraldic performance from both packs of forwards with the Dogs marginally getting on top in both the early and late stages of the encounter which counted most.
Bulldog prop Chad Burcher was a standout performer with Stone, Wessel, Lynch and Johnson in pursuit and the Gorillas were valiantly served by Watts, Volkanovski and Roberts, the dangerous second row forward.