THE Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs have won the under 18 Group 7 premiership, edging out the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas in a thrilling grand final 28-24 at the Collegians Sporting Complex on Sunday.
The match’s scoring was opened by Warilla, on the back of a penalty, when Blair Grant created an overlap, sending winger Brodie Stewart over the score.
Grant failed with his conversion attempt, as the Gorillas led 4-nil after as many minutes.
The Gorillas appeared certain to stretch their lead in the seventh minute but a ball-and-all try-saving tackle by Cruize Turay kept the margin to four.
Continued discipline issues hurt the Bulldogs but their defence held firm and didn’t allow any more points for the next 10 minutes.
In the 16th minute, the Bulldogs finally opened their scoring account, through second-rower Cody Roach.
The ball was shifted from the right to the left of the field, creating an overlap, in which Roach, who dummied inside his defender to score.
Tarje Whitford missed the conversion, leaving the scores at 4-all.
But the Dogs had their backs up now and had their second moments later.
Off the restart, the Dogs made easy metres down field before, at the end of the set, five-eighth Jayden Millard broke the line, stepped three defenders and dived over.
Whitford converted for 10-4.
With five minutes remaining in the half, the Gorillas went on the attack, following a loose Nathan Meredith offload.
The loose ball was kicked forward and regathered by Grant, who was stopped in his tracks by Dylan Carriage.
But off the ensuing offside penalty, Gorillas hooker Dean Hodgson dived over from close range – before the scores were tied 10-all after Sam Hooper’s conversion.
In the final minute before half-time, the Dogs again created an overlap on their left edge attack – this time, fullback Lachlan Broughton was the beneficiary, diving over to score.
Whitford converted as time expired for a 16-10 lead at the break.
Two minutes after the resumption, the Dogs were denied a try to Tom Woodward following controversial offside call.
To rub salt in the wounds, Gorillas skipper Grant continued to the lead from the front, scoring his team’s third - pouncing on a loose pass from opposite number Broughton.
Hooper easily added the extras to tie it up 16-all.
The Gorillas regained the lead with 20 minutes to play, on the back of an offside penalty, when gifted added two points via the boot – making it 18-16.
Their lead is short-lived, as Milton-Ulladulla hit the lead with 13 to go.
Halfback Whitford grubbered the ball into the in-goal and halves partner Millard was first to the ball to score.
Whitford added the extras for 22-18.
Back-to-back penalties marched the Dogs down field after the kick-off, before another penalty camped them deep inside the Gorillas area but the Bulldogs were unable to turn this possession into points.
With just under seven minutes to go, Warilla hit back when Lleyton Hughes dived over from dummy-half.
Grant added the extras for 24-22.
With three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs had a golden chance to hit the lead, after an offside penalty against the Gorillas – which they took the most off.
The ball was spread from left to right from halves Whitford and Millard into the hands of Elijah Humble, who overpowered his defender and slammed it down in the corner.
Whitford slotted it from the sideline to make it 28-24.
Best for the Dogs were man of the match Oscar Fitzpatrick, Tarje Whitford and Lachlan Broughton, while Blair Grant, Blake Dowel and Kyle Stone did what they could for the Gorillas.